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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Syncope is one of those medical words that has dramatic implications in medical circles but probably does not mean much to the average patient. Let me explain what syncope is.

Syncope is a short term but abrupt loss of consciousness with a complete return to preexisting neurologic function. A person who had a syncopal episode is normally brought to the hospital by a friend or family member and the story is something like "I just fell to the ground" or "I was fine one moment and out of it the next".

Once at the hospital we check out the various causes - things like cardiac or neurologic issues can be a major concern. This is why we often bring people with these issues into the hospital for a stay. Not only is an EKG necessary but often we need to monitor the heart for twenty-four hours or more to see if there are irregular heartbeats. Tests of brainwave activity or MRIs have to be performed and we need to look at electrolytes and other chemical issues.

If you find that you have passed out or suffered a similar episode you need to have it checked out.

Reported By Dr. Brian McDonough, KYW Newsradio Medical Editor

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