Tilt Table Test

An upright tilt table test is prescribed for people who have a history of recurrent syncope (fainting) or pre-syncope (almost fainting). Syncope can be caused by many different kinds of health problems so it is important to determine the cause of fainting. The most common type of syncope is called simple fainting or vasodepressor syncope. This type of fainting may be alarming to those who see it, but it is rarely life-threatening. It is caused by an imbalance of the nerves that normally control your heart and blood pressure. Normally, heart rate and blood pressure increase when a person stands up but in some people, standing results in a sudden drop in blood pressure and heart rate. This decrease in blood supply can often make a person feel lightheaded, dizzy, sweaty, or possibly faint.

Test Preparation

Do not to eat or drink anything for three hours prior to the exam, except for sips of water. This is to prevent you from becoming nauseated while the test is being performed. Wear comfortable clothing.

The Test

You will receive an intravenous (IV) line to give you fluids and medications during the test. The test is performed using a special table called a tilt table. The tilt table is a circular bed frame that allows the person to be positioned lying flat and then upright without any effort on their part. You will be instructed to lay down on the tilt table that has a pillow and safety straps. A heart monitor, blood pressure cuff and an oxygen saturation measuring device will be applied. You will be monitored closely during the test. 

To perform the test, the doctor adjusts the degree of tilt with a hand control to an almost standing position for 40-60 minutes or however long you tolerate the test. The doctor may also choose to give you an adrenalin-like medication to increase your heart rate and simulate exercise while you are on the table. This medication may cause you to feel your heart pound. If you feel dizzy or faint, your blood pressure and heart rhythm will be recorded. The table will be returned to the flat position and the test will be over.

After the Test

If dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting were noted during the test, you may be started on oral medication. The test may be repeated in about 1-2 weeks to see if the medicine is working.