What is a tilt table test?

A tilt table test is used to determine if you are prone to sudden blood pressure drops or slow pulse rates when your position changes. Your physician will order a tilt table test if you have fainting spells, severe lightheadedness or dizziness that forces you to lie down.

Fainting or severe dizziness occurs for different reasons, from nervous system reactions to dropping blood pressure. A tilt table test involves being tilted with your head up at a variety of angles for a period of time. The test shows how your heart rate and blood pressure respond to these changes in position.

When your test begins, a nurse will start an IV in your arm. You will lie down on the tilt table flat on your back and be connected to monitors to check your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing and oxygen levels throughout the test. Safety straps will be securely placed across your chest and legs to hold you in place.

The first part of the test is a quiet period. The table will then be slowly tilted to a standing position, with your head up. Since you are strapped in, you will be supported in this position. The technician will check you at several additional positions and then return you to a flat position.

You will be awake during the entire test, but it is important to remain quiet and still. During the test, you might feel lightheaded or sick to your stomach, or experience dizziness, heart palpitations or flutters, vision changes or possibly even faint. It is important that you tell your nurse or doctor about any symptoms you are experiencing right away.

The second part of your tilt table test starts once you have been given medication, such as nitroglycerine or Isuprel, to stress your heart. The medication is given slowly in your IV and closely adjusted based on your body’s reaction. The medication could make you feel jittery, nervous or as though your heart is beating faster. You will be tilted again with the additional medications used to try to provoke any abnormal response. These symptoms will diminish as the medication wears off.

What to expect during a tilt table test

Do not eat or drink anything for at least four hours prior to your tilt table test. Check with your physician to determine if any of your medications should be avoided for the days leading up to your scheduled test. Make sure to bring all of your medications, as well as any herbal or dietary supplements and over-the-counter medications, to the test with you.

On the day of the test, do not wear any jewelry or bring any valuables with you. You will be asked to wear a hospital gown during the test. It is important to bring an adult to drive you home after the test is complete, because you will not be allowed to drive.

During your procedure

Follow the technologist’s instructions closely and make sure to hold completely still. If you feel very uncomfortable and cannot go on during the test, it will be stopped. If you faint during the test, the test will also be stopped. Your tilt table test and recovery will take about three hours to complete.

After your procedure

It is important to rest for several hours once your tilt test is complete. You can eat and drink regular foods right away. You should start to feel normal again within 15 minutes of the test concluding, but you will remain tired.

A report of your tilt table test will be sent to your physician, who will contact you to discuss your results.

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