Last week I met a new patient who wanted a comprehensive blood test. She mentioned that in the past she had fainted after a blood draw. I assured her that I’m quite good at the fine art of phlebotomy and that I would do it fast. I completed my task and threw away the needle into the sharp container. Then she fainted. Her blood pressure dropped to a systolic of 70 (extremely low level). I did a bedside EKG and cardiac ultrasound and had her lie down for a while. She slowly gained consciousness and her blood pressure came back up. I told her that I won’t be drawing her blood in the future!
This condition is called vasovagal syncope and is quite common. Many people feel queasy when they see their own blood and I must admit that I am one of them. I have no problems drawing other people’s blood but when I see my own, I feel light headed. During medical school while donating blood I felt queasy and lightheaded and had to stop.
Other situations that can cause vasovagal syncope are: after an emotional stress, excessive alcohol intake and with an upset stomach. In general it is a benign condition, however it can be dangerous when it happens when you are driving!