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Tilt Table Test: About This Test

What is it?

A tilt table test is used to check people who have fainted or who often feel light-headed. The results help your doctor know the cause of your fainting or feeling light-headed.

The test uses a special table that slowly tilts you to an upright position. It checks how your body responds when you change positions.

Why is this test done?

This test checks what causes your symptoms by monitoring them while changing your position. Your doctor can see if you faint or feel light-headed because of problems with your heart rate or blood pressure.

When people move from a lying position to an upright one, their blood pressure normally drops. But the body adjusts to this. Your nervous system senses changes in body position and controls your heart rate and blood pressure.

If the nervous system doesn't work properly, you might feel light-headed or faint. This can happen if your blood pressure stays too low. Your heart rate also may slow down or speed up. You feel light-headed because your brain is not getting a normal amount of blood for a short time. This problem is called syncope (say "SING-kuh-pee"). Syncope might happen during the test when you change to an upright position.

How can you prepare for the test?

  • Tell your doctor about any medicines you take. Ask your doctor if you need to stop taking any medicines before the test.
  • You may be asked to not eat or drink for a few hours before the test.

What happens during the test?

  • The test is usually done in a hospital or a cardiologist's office.
  • You will have small patches or pads attached to your skin. These are sensors that monitor your heart. You will also have a blood pressure cuff on your arm. And you may have an IV.
  • During the test, you will lie flat on a table that can tilt you up to almost a standing position. You will be strapped securely to the table.
  • Your heart rate and blood pressure are checked regularly as the table is tilted up.
  • You will be asked if you feel any symptoms like nausea, sweating, dizziness, or an abnormal heartbeat. If you don't have any symptoms, you may be given medicine to speed up your heart rate. Then you will be checked for symptoms again.
  • If you faint during the test, the table will be returned to a flat position. You will be checked closely and taken care of right away by your medical team. Most people wake up right away.

What else should you know about the test?

  • The test result is normal if your blood pressure stays stable during the test and you do not feel light-headed or faint. The test result is not normal if your blood pressure drops and you feel light-headed or faint. These symptoms might happen because of a slow heart rate.

How long does the test take?

  • The test will take about an hour. It may take longer if you get medicine to speed up your heart during the test.

What happens after the test?

  • Your heart rate and blood pressure will be checked before you go home.
  • You may need to have someone drive you home after the test.
  • You can probably go back to your usual activities right away. But some people feel a little tired or nauseated

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to keep a list of the medicines you take. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your test results.

Where can you learn more?

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