When do I go to the Emergency Department?

Reading time: 2 min

The cause of a loss of consciousness can be so banal, like the fact of coughing energetically and blacking out, but it can also be a sign of a heart or circulation problem, and even a cerebrovascular accident (stroke); for this reason, someone, on their own, cannot determine the causes. 

For this reason, although the loss of consciousness may have been temporary, it is advised to go an emergency department or a hospital, depending on the state of the patient and the circumstances.

When the loss of consciousness is longer, the patient should be taken to an emergency department as soon as possible, since the cause could be potentially serious.

There is a series of symptoms that can indicate if the loss of consciousness is due to a serious cause, such as:

Person holding hand to chest, with chest pain or chest pain

Pain in the chest moments before the episode.

Heart and electrocardiogram, heart palpitations

Palpitations, feeling the heart beating very rapidly or very slowly.

Person holding a hand to his head with a symbol of a lightning bolt above it indicating a headache

Intense headache.

Person holding hands to neck, sweating, pale, unable to breathe, feeling short of breath, short of breath, choking or breathlessness

Shortness of breath.

Elderly man with a cane

Patients of advanced age

A person who has just fainted or lost consciousness

Repetition syncope.

Tired, sweating man

Losses of consciousness making an effort.

In these cases, the patient should be taken to an emergency department as soon as possible.

Tests in the Emergency Room

When someone goes to the emergency department due to a loss of consciousness, the procedure is as follows:

High heart rate o blood pressure

The vital signs are taken.

Folder with a patient's medical history

Detailed clinical notes are made, as a well as a physical examination to rule out serious causes of the syncope, especially heart diseases.

Electrocardiogram monitor

An electrocardiogram is always performed to see if there are any changes that may help to establish the cause, such as an arrhythmia.

Glucometer measuring blood glucose levels

A capillary blood glucose is performed (finger prick to draw a drop of blood) in patients with diabetes who take oral anti-diabetics or insulin, in order to rule out hypoglycaemia.

If nothing abnormal is detected in this process, or if the patient does not have any heart disease or symptoms that may indicate seriousness, there is usually nothing else to do. 

Other tests that can also be performed in order to determine the cause of the loss of consciousness are:

Blood collection tube

Blood tests.

Person having a chest X-ray done

A chest x-ray.

Measurement of finger oxygen saturation

Measurement of oxygen in the blood. 

The results of these tests will determine whether the patient can go home or has to be referred to a specialist, such as a cardiologist or neurologist, to finalise the diagnostic process and, if required, start immediate treatment. 

Substantiated information by:

Elisenda Gomez Angelats

Published: 20 February 2018
Updated: 20 February 2018


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