Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD Patient Handout


About Your Diagnosis
Carotid sinus syncope is a brief period of unconsciousness resulting from pressure upon the pressure sensors in the carotid artery (the main arteries supplying blood to the brain). The carotid sinus (an area within the carotid artery near the branch point) is normally sensitive to blood pressure changes. When the carotid sinus senses pressure, either blood pressure or external pressure, it may send a signal to slow the heart rate or decrease the blood pressure without slowing the heart rate. Syncope may result from stimulation of the carotid sinus pressure sensors by turning the head to one side, by a tight collar, or even by shaving over the region of the sinus in the neck. Spontaneous attacks are also known to occur The majority of reported cases have been in elderly men.

Living With Your Diagnosis
An episode of carotid syncope can be frightening because there is usually no apparent warning sign or symptom. The attack almost always begins when sitting or standing, and unconsciousness rarely last more than a few minutes. Once consciousness is regained, clear thinking generally resumes.

If the syncopal episodes recur, your doctor may suggest a medication that will inhibit the signals that otherwise slow the heart rate or reduce the blood pressure. In extremely rare circumstances, surgery to interrupt these inappropriate signals may be beneficial.

The DOs
• Take note of the activity that precedes your attacks; report this to your doctor.
• Take your medications as prescribed.
• Have your carotid arteries scanned for a blockage or constriction of blood flow.

The DON’Ts
• Do not massage your neck or wear shirts with tight collars. Avoid wearing tight neckties.
• Do not wash the front of your neck vigorously.
• DO NOT DRIVE until your doctor approves.
• Do not engage in any activity that may put you or others at risk should you lose consciousness (e.g., climbing a ladder, operating dangerous equipment or tools).
• Do not adjust your medications without your doctor’s approval.

When to Call Your Doctor
• If you have recurrent attacks of syncope.
• If you injure yourself during a fall, especially if you strike your head.
• If you have any difficulty related to your medications.

American Academy of Neurology