A healthcare professional discussing syncope diagnosis with a patient, emphasizing the importance of accurate ICD-10 coding.

Syncope: Causes, Diagnosis, and ICD-10 Coding

Syncope, commonly known as fainting, is a transient loss of consciousness and muscle strength characterized by a rapid onset, short duration, and spontaneous recovery. It is a symptom rather than a disease itself and can be caused by various underlying conditions. In this comprehensive article, we will delve into the causes of syncope, its diagnosis, and the appropriate ICD-10 coding for this medical phenomenon.

Causes of Syncope

  1. Neurocardiogenic Syncope (NCS):
    • Definition: NCS, also known as vasovagal syncope, is the most common type of syncope. It occurs when the body overreacts to triggers, such as emotional stress or the sight of blood, leading to a sudden drop in heart rate and blood pressure.
    • ICD-10 Code: R55 – Syncope and collapse.
  2. Cardiac Causes:
    • Definition: Various heart-related issues can lead to syncope, including arrhythmias, structural heart diseases, and ischemic heart disease.
    • ICD-10 Codes:
      • I44 – Atrioventricular and left bundle-branch block.
      • I45 – Other conduction disorders.
      • I49 – Other cardiac arrhythmias.
      • I25 – Chronic ischemic heart disease.
  3. Orthostatic Hypotension:
    • Definition: A sudden drop in blood pressure that occurs when a person stands up from a sitting or lying position.
    • ICD-10 Code: I95.1 – Orthostatic hypotension.
  4. Metabolic Causes:
    • Definition: Certain metabolic conditions, such as hypoglycemia, can lead to syncope.
    • ICD-10 Code: E16.2 – Hypoglycemia, unspecified.

Diagnosis of Syncope

  1. Clinical History and Physical Examination:
    • Description: Gathering information about the patient’s medical history, lifestyle, and potential triggers for syncope is crucial.
    • Importance: Helps identify patterns and potential causes.
  2. Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG):
    • Description: Measures the electrical activity of the heart to identify arrhythmias or conduction abnormalities.
    • Importance: Aids in diagnosing cardiac-related syncope.
  3. Holter Monitoring:
    • Description: Continuous ECG monitoring over a 24 to 48-hour period to capture intermittent arrhythmias.
    • Importance: Useful for identifying arrhythmias that may not be evident during a standard ECG.
  4. Tilt Table Test:
    • Description: Measures blood pressure and heart rate changes in response to changes in body position, helping diagnose neurocardiogenic syncope.
    • Importance: Useful for confirming suspected cases of vasovagal syncope.
  5. Blood Tests:
    • Description: Assess electrolyte levels, blood glucose, and other metabolic parameters.
    • Importance: Rules out metabolic causes of syncope.
  6. Imaging Studies:
    • Description: Echocardiography and other imaging techniques help assess the structure and function of the heart.
    • Importance: Aids in identifying structural heart diseases.

ICD-10 Coding for Syncope

Assigning the correct ICD-10 code is crucial for accurate medical billing and record-keeping. The primary code for syncope is R55 – Syncope and collapse. However, additional codes may be required based on the underlying cause.

  1. Neurocardiogenic Syncope (Vasovagal Syncope):
    • ICD-10 Code: R55 – Syncope and collapse.
    • Additional Codes:
      • F48.8 – Other specified behavioral and emotional disorders.
      • Z71.89 – Other specified counseling.
  2. Cardiac Causes:
    • ICD-10 Codes:
      • I44 – Atrioventricular and left bundle-branch block.
      • I45 – Other conduction disorders.
      • I49 – Other cardiac arrhythmias.
      • I25 – Chronic ischemic heart disease.
  3. Orthostatic Hypotension:
    • ICD-10 Code: I95.1 – Orthostatic hypotension.
  4. Metabolic Causes (Hypoglycemia):
    • ICD-10 Code: E16.2 – Hypoglycemia, unspecified.
    • Additional Codes:
      • R73.0 – Abnormal glucose tolerance test.
      • Z79.4 – Long-term (current) use of insulin.

Management and Prevention

Once the cause of syncope is identified, appropriate management strategies can be implemented.

  1. Vasovagal Syncope:
    • Avoidance of triggers and lifestyle modifications.
    • Counter-pressure maneuvers to prevent blood pooling.
  2. Orthostatic Hypotension:
    • Adequate hydration and salt intake.
    • Medication adjustments and compression stockings.
  3. Cardiac Arrhythmias:
    • Medications to regulate heart rhythm.
    • In some cases, implantation of a pacemaker or defibrillator.
  4. Neurological Conditions:
    • Treatment and management of the underlying neurological disorder.


Syncope is a common medical phenomenon with various underlying causes. Accurate diagnosis is crucial for effective management and the assignment of appropriate ICD-10 codes. Clinicians must consider the patient’s medical history, conduct thorough physical examinations, and utilize diagnostic tools such as ECG, Holter monitoring, tilt table tests, and imaging studies to identify the specific cause of syncope. Assigning the correct ICD-10 codes ensures proper documentation and billing, contributing to a comprehensive and accurate healthcare record.

Wasiur Rehman is fueled by a deep passion for advancing innovation in healthcare and medical research. He possesses a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science Engineering and has dedicated approximately two years to his role as a research analyst and SEO content writer. Currently, he is a valuable member of the DiseaseInfoHub team, serving as a content and research guide.

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