Introduction: Syncope is common among emergency department (ED) patients with acute pulmonary embolism (PE) and indicates a higher acuity and worse prognosis than in patients without syncope. Whether presyncope carries the same prognostic implications has not been established. We compared incidence of intensive care unit (ICU) admission in three groups of ED PE patients: those with presyncope; syncope; and neither.
Methods: This retrospective cohort study included all adults with acute, objectively confirmed PE in 21 community EDs from January 2013–April 2015. We combined electronic health record extraction with manual chart abstraction. We used chi-square test for univariate comparisons and performed multivariate analysis to evaluate associations between presyncope or syncope and ICU admission from the ED, reported as adjusted odds ratios (aOR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI).
Results: Among 2996 PE patients, 82 (2.7%) had presyncope and 109 (3.6%) had syncope. ICU admission was similar between groups (presyncope 18.3% vs syncope 25.7%) and different than their non-syncope counterparts (either 22.5% vs neither 4.7%; p<0.0001). On multivariate analysis, both presyncope and syncope were independently associated with ICU admission, controlling for demographics, higher-risk PE Severity Index (PESI) class, ventilatory support, proximal clot location, and submassive and massive PE classification: presyncope, aOR 2.79 (95% CI, 1.40, 5.56); syncope, aOR 4.44 (95% CI 2.52, 7.80). These associations were only minimally affected when excluding massive PE from the model. There was no significant interaction between either syncope or presyncope and PESI, submassive or massive classification in predicting ICU admission.
Conclusion: Presyncope appears to carry similar strength of association with ICU admission as syncope in ED patients with acute PE. If this is confirmed, clinicians evaluating patients with acute PE may benefit from including presyncope in their calculus of risk assessment and site-of-care decision-making.