Feeling faint? Movement test helps diagnose heart conditions
If you have had unexplained fainting or dizziness, your doctor may recommend a tilt table test. This is a painless test to see how your body responds to a movement similar to going from sitting to standing. While lying on a special table, your head is raised gradually to 60 to 80 degrees higher than the rest of your body. During the test, your heart rate and blood pressure are measured. If your blood pressure drops, the test is positive, or abnormal, and may indicate a condition such as arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat). The drop in blood pressure could also be a sign of:
- Vasovagal syndrome
- Structural heart disease
- Heart attack
- Ventricular dysfunction
How to prepare for tilt table testing
Before the test, you will be asked to not eat or drink for two hours beforehand. If your tilt table test is in the morning, you will be asked to not eat or drink after midnight. You may also be advised to stop taking certain medications before the test. The test itself is performed in a hospital or electrophysiology lab at a clinic.
During the test you will be lying on your back with straps at the knees and waist to hold you in position. You may also be given an IV (intravenous line) so that medicine can be given, if appropriate, during the test. You’ll also have electrodes on your chest and will be connected to an ECG machine. Your blood pressure and heart rate will also be monitored throughout the test. After you have been lying down for about 15 minutes the person administering the test will tilt the table up slightly and check your blood pressure and heart rate. A few minutes later the table will tilt a bit more and your body’s response will be checked again.
The test will end right away if you experience fainting or a drop in blood pressure. There is no further need to do the second part of the test. If you do not have a drop in blood pressure during the first part of the test, you will continue with the second part. Medication that makes your heart beat faster, similar to the feeling you have when you exercise, will be introduced into the IV line. The medication also lowers your blood pressure. The table will tilt so you are in an upright position and can be monitored for your response to the conditions brought on by the medication.
After the test, you may resume your regular daily activities. Your doctor will review your test results and may recommend additional testing to rule out other conditions or further diagnose your condition.