Approximately 70% of syncope or cases of faint are benign. From a strictly medical point of view this benign fainting is called “vasovagal syncope or neuro-mediated syncope”. There is no need to worry: the mortality associated with syncope in the vast majority of cases is in fact identical to that of the normal population. The situation is more complicated if the syncope or fainting incidents are associated with a pre-existing cardiovascular disease: in this case, 15-20% of those affected by syncope die within 12 months.


Syncope and high risk jobs

As explained by Prof. Raffaello Furlan, Head of the Operational Unit at the Medical Clinic of the Clinical Institute at Humanitas, Rozzano (Milan), who recently wrote a book on the subject titled “Vasovagal Syncope” (Springer Publishers), “the benign syncope may have lethal repercussions even in people who perform high-risk jobs such as carpenters, fire-fighters, staff in constant contact with blast furnaces or people operating on dangerous machinery. Moreover, in cases of professionals such as drivers of public vehicles, a loss of consciousness at the wheel can result in serious consequences for third parties, in particular for the passengers of the vehicle and for other motorists”.

A further problem associated with syncope and work related activities is the need to reintegrate the worker in their usual workplace after the syncope episodes gradually.

When and how does one reintegrate while avoiding damage to the person and third parties?

“An attribution of new jobs – said Prof. Furlan – is one of the most often practiced methods. However, this solution is not always valued by the worker, because frequently the “new” attribution does not remain temporary as hoped.”

It is appropriate to try to better manage the problems of syncope and the workplace, even from a scientific aspect. In Humanitas the syncope Unit has further specialized on this topic all thanks to the contribution of Dr. Franca Barbic, a medical officer with experience on the matter.

Syncope tends to repeat itself within six months

“Thanks to an initial study of over 250 people of working age (18-65 years) who visited the emergency room of four hospitals in Milan, we are currently able to say that there is a particularly evident recurrence of a second syncope within six months from the first episode. Thereafter, the frequency of recurrence is reduced more and more. This is a valuable sample collected specifically on a working-age population, according to which the occupational physician or family doctor can provide suggestions to the worker on when to return to work and with what precautions.”

Currently, there are many cases in Milan sent to Dr. Barbic of workers who have suffered a syncope episode while working for a “third level” assessment. We have a body of evidence based on the working population that occupational physicians or family doctors rely on to give advice regarding when the employee can return to work. Employers can use this to decide how long the worker that has had a syncope will be assigned to a work task that is not dangerous or does not pose as a risk for recurrence.”