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I like to explain it like this:
Think of a water bottle (Figure 1). When it is completely full, it doesn’t matter which way you turn the bottle (upright, on its side, upside down), there is always fluid in every space (Figure 2).
Now think of a bottle of water that is ½ or ¾ full, and try to turn it in different directions (Figures 3 and 4).
When it is on its side, there is an equal amount of fluid at each end. But, when you flip the bottle upright, what happens? GRAVITY pulls the water down to the bottom of the bottle, and there is a gap of air left at the top.
Our bodies are very similar to that bottle of water. When we are lying flat on our back, there is an equal amount of fluid in our legs as in our head and neck. However, when we stand up, gravity pulls the fluid down to our legs and feet and there is a temporary gap left at the top (OUR BRAIN!). This results is a brief loss of oxygen to the brain, which causes the sensation of lightheadedness and can cause someone to “pass out”.
Fainting is actually our body’s way of “re-setting” itself in some circumstances, whereby taking us to the ground ensures the fluid is again restored to the brain.
Other ways our bodies try to compensate is to increase the heart rate, beat more forcefully, or constrict the blood vessels in the lower part of our body as a way to force blood toward the top of our body.
Other causes of syncope (fainting) include Reflex Syncope (fainting at the site of blood or experiencing pain) or Convulsive Syncope (can mimic seizure activity).
Fainting could indicate something more serious …
The following are some of the ways in which we diagnose fainting in children:
The following are some of the ways in which we treat fainting:
Learn more about the complex conditions we treat at WakeMed Physician Practices – Pediatric Cardiology, including fainting/syncope, heart murmurs, palpitations and more.
Dr. Jennifer Whitham is a pediatric cardiologist at WakeMed with clinical interests in congenital heart disease, fetal cardiology, and functional cardiac assessment. She enjoys helping children with heart disease survive, thrive and live up to their fullest potential.
Request an appointment with Dr. Whitham today.
3000 New Bern Ave.
Raleigh, NC 27610