A tilt table test is used to evaluate the cause of unexplained fainting (syncope).
Your doctor might recommend a tilt table test if you have repeated, unexplained episodes of lightheadedness, dizziness or fainting. The test can help determine if the cause is related to your heart rate or blood pressure.
Why it's done
Your doctor might recommend a tilt table test to try to trigger your signs and symptoms — lightheadedness, dizziness or fainting — while your heart rate and blood pressure are being monitored.
If you have symptoms while you're in the upright position on the tilt table, the part of your nervous system that controls blood pressure and heart rate suddenly lowers them for a short time. Less blood flows to your brain, possibly causing you to faint.
A tilt table test is generally safe, and complications are rare. But, as with any medical procedure, it does carry some risk.
Potential complications include:
- Nausea and vomiting after fainting
- Weakness that can last several hours
- Prolonged low blood pressure (hypotension) after the test
These complications usually go away when the table is returned to a horizontal position.
How you prepare
You might be asked not to eat or drink for two hours or more before a tilt table test. You can take your medications as usual, unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
What you can expect
To prepare you for the test, a member of your health care team will:
- Have you lie flat on the table that has a footboard and place straps around you to hold you in place.
- Place sticky patches (electrodes) on your chest, legs and arms. Wires connect the electrodes to an electrocardiogram machine that monitors your heart rate.
- Place a blood pressure monitor or cuff on your finger, on your arm or on both to check your blood pressure during the test.
- Place an intravenous (IV) line into a vein in your arm for delivering medication, if needed, during the second part of the test.
The results of a tilt table test are based on whether you faint during the test and what happens to your blood pressure and heart rate. If the test is negative, your heart rate will increase only slightly, your blood pressure won't drop significantly, and you won't have signs or symptoms of fainting.
Depending on the results, your doctor might recommend additional tests to exclude other causes of fainting.