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Complications of carotid sinus massage - A prospective series of older patients

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Rodney Bexton, Dr Fiona Shaw, Dr Nick Steen, Professor John Bond, Professor Rose Anne Kenny


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Background: There is a causal association between carotid sinus hypersensitivity, falls and syncope in elderly subjects. Neurological complications during carotid sinus massage have been reported in case studies and two retrospective series. Our aim was prospectively to ascertain the incidence of complications occurring after carotid sinus massage performed for diagnostic purposes in a consecutive series of patients. Methods: 1000 Consecutive subjects aged 50 years or over who attended the accident and emergency department with syncope or 'unexplained' falls had carotid sinus massage. Carotid sinus massage was performed for 5 s on the right and then left sides both supine and upright (70 ┬░head-up tilt) with continuous heart rate and phasic blood pressure recording. Contraindications to carotid sinus massage were the presence of a carotid bruit, recent history of stroke or myocardial infarction or previous ventricular tachyarrhythmia. Results: Complications occurred in nine patients immediately after cessation of carotid sinus massage. Eight had transient neurological complications possibly attributable to carotid sinus massage: visual disturbance, 'pins and needles' and sensation of finger numbness in two cases each, leg weakness in one and sensation of 'being drunk' in one. All transient complications resolved within 24 h. In one patient mild weakness of the right hand persisted. Conclusions: No subjects had cardiac complications and 1% had possible neurological symptoms, which resolved in most cases. Persistent neurological complications are uncommon, occurring in 1:1000 patients (0.1%) or 1:3805 episodes of carotid sinus massage (0.03%).

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bexton R; Kenny RA; Bond J; Shaw FE; Steen N; Richardson DA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Age and Ageing

Year: 2000

Volume: 29

Issue: 5

Pages: 413-417

Print publication date: 01/01/2000

ISSN (print): 0002-0729

ISSN (electronic): 1468-2834

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/ageing/29.5.413

PubMed id: 11108413


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