Syncope and Falls in the Elderly (SaFE)

“I never realised that I was losing consciousness. Each time I found myself on the ground I thought I had tripped” - Patient

This advisory area has been put together to provide information and advice to older adults, their families, carers, care workers and medical professionals on syncope. The information is aimed at increasing awareness and understanding of syncope and providing better support specifically for older adults who experience blackouts unexplained falls or who are diagnosed with syncope.

Dr Matt Fay, GP with special interest in cardiology, discusses the diagnosis and treatment of syncope in older adults

What is Syncope?

Syncope is the medical term for a faint that is caused by a reduction in blood supply to the brain, due either to a diversion of blood away from the brain or to a heart problem). As we get older, the prevalence of syncope increases as our bodies are less able to deal with falls in blood pressure as the body’s mechanisms slow over the years. Syncope is also more difficult to diagnose in older people because there are often multiple causes. (Please click on the video link for information on syncope in older people from STARS Patron Professor Rose Anne Kenny).

Syncope causes falls

One of the major concerns with syncope is the potential injury that may be sustained during the fall which is often caused by a faint. There are many risk factors causing falls in older people. External causes, such as badly fitting slippers cause 50% of falls in older people. Orthostatic intolerance is one of the major causes for the other 50% of falls. Up to half of the residents of nursing homes fall each year, and as many as 40% of them fall more than once.


30% of patients aged 65 years and over who have experienced syncope will not be aware that they have fainted, they instead will report that they have fallen. This is due to a brief loss of memory in the time just before losing consciousness (medically termed retrograde amnesia). As a consequence, doctors may be likely to diagnose a mechanical fall and patients will not be investigated for the actual cause, such as low blood pressure, or an arrhythmia (irregular, too fast or too slow heart rhythm). Unfortunately this may leave the loss of consciousness untreated.

Syncope and Falls in the Elderly (SaFE) project

Aims for older people:

• to promote accurate diagnosis and treatment of syncope 
• raise awareness of syncope as a cause of falls
• provide information and support

If more people are made aware of syncope as a cause of falls, the root cause could be treated and recurring falls prevented.

STARS has developed information and advice for older people with syncope. All information is approved by the STARS medical advisory committee and is endorsed by the Department of Health.


Do you suffer from unexplained 
blackouts or falls?
Download and Print

Syncope causes falls in older people
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Common Causes and Preventative 
Measures on Syncope in Older People
Download and Print

Download and Print

Download and Print

Key facts on Syncope as a cause 
of falls – for Medical Professionals
Download and Print


Get in touch for more help and information

+44 (0) 1789 867


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