Tilt Table Test
The tilt table test determines how your body reacts to changes in position. This test is used if you have had syncope or fainting spells. During the test, you lie on a table that can be moved from a flat, horizontal position to an upright, vertical position. While the table is moved, your heart rate, blood pressure and symptoms are monitored.
Syncope is a fainting spell or sudden, brief loss of consciousness. This can happen when the brain does not receive enough blood flow and oxygen. The most common type is called vasovagal syncope or neurocardiogenic syncope. In this case, the nerves that control the action between the heart and blood vessels have malfunctioned. The heart slows down and the blood pressure drops. As a result, the person loses consciousness.
The tilt table test is designed to cause syncope in the patient under controlled conditions. It is useful for diagnosing vasovagal syncope. During the test, the upright position causes blood to collect in the lower part of the body, especially the legs. Therefore, the heart has less blood to pump and the blood pressure tends to drop.
Normally, nerves increase the heart rate and tighten the blood vessels to keep the blood pressure at a certain level. These nerves do not work right in people who have a tendency to vasovagal syncope. So the person loses consciousness when the heart rate slows and the blood pressure drops. Once the person lies flat again, they regain consciousness.
Do not eat or drink anything for 6 to 8 hours before the test. Make arrangements for someone to drive you home after the study. Prior to the test, check with your doctor about any medications you are taking. Some may interfere with the test.
During the test, you will be asked to lie down on the tilt table. An intravenous (IV) line will be inserted into one arm and a blood pressure cuff is placed on the other arm. ECG electrodes will be placed on your chest to monitor heart rhythm. Safety straps will be placed over your chest and legs.
At first you will lie flat on the tilt table. Then the table is moved so that you are almost in an upright position. You will be monitored in that position for awhile and then moved to a flat position again.
If the test is normal or "negative", you may be given a medication to bring on syncope. When you are given the drug, you may feel your heart pound. At any time during the test, you may get symptoms similar to when you fainted or nearly fainted. If this happens, tell the technician or nurse in the room. If the tilting causes a loss of consciousness with low blood pressure and/or a slow heart rate, then this test is abnormal or "positive".
When your family member or friend drives you home, you will want to rest for awhile. Ask you doctor about taking any medications you might have stopped taking before the test.
The tilt table test is generally safe. The test may causes fainting but if this happens, the table is returned quickly to a flat position and the test is stopped. Personnel are available to handle any emergency.
The tilt table test helps doctors see if you are susceptible to vasovagal syncope. This test helps your doctor to make an accurate diagnosis and develop the best treatment plan for you.