Tilt Table Testing

A tilt table test is a medical procedure often used to diagnose dysautonomia or syncope. Patients with symptoms of dizziness or lightheadedness, with or without a loss of consciousness (fainting), suspected to be associated with a drop in blood pressure or positional tachycardia are good candidates for this test.


Before actually taking the test, the patient may be instructed to fast for a period before the test will take place, and to stop taking any medications. On the day of the tilt table test, a patient may be monitored using an electrocardiogram (ECG) while lying down. Some facilities insert an intravenous line in case the patient needs to be given medication quickly; however, this may influence the results of the test and may only be indicated in particular circumstances.


A tilt table test can be done in different ways and be modified for individual circumstances. In some cases, the patient will be strapped to a tilt table lying flat and then tilted or suspended completely or almost completely upright (as if standing). Most of the time, a patient is suspended at an angle of sixty to eighty degrees. Sometimes, the patient will be given a drug, such as Glyceryl trinitrate or isoproterenol, to create further susceptibility to the test. In all cases, the patient is instructed not to move. Symptoms, blood pressure, pulse, electrocardiogram, and sometimes blood oxygen saturation are recorded. The test ends when the patient faints or has other significant symptoms, at which time he or she is given medical attention, or after a set period of time (usually from 20 to 45 minutes, depending on the facility or individualized protocol).

Diagnostic symptoms

A tilt table test is considered positive if the patient experiences symptoms associated with a drop in blood pressure or cardiac arrhythmia. A normal person's blood pressure will not drop dramatically while standing, because the body will compensate for this posture with a slight increase in heart rate and constriction of the blood vessels in the legs. If this process does not function normally in the patient, the test could provoke signs and symptoms ranging from minor lightheadedness to a very severe cardiac episode, depending on the person.

A common side effect during tilt table testing is a feeling of heaviness and warmth in the lower extremities. This is due to blood pooling in the legs and, to onlookers, the patient's lower extremities may appear blotchy, pink, or red.

Dizziness or lightheadedness are also likely to occur in susceptible patients. Tilt table testing could provoke fainting or syncope; in fact,, this is the purpose of the test. It may not be appropriate, or indeed even possible, to stop the test before this occurs, as the drop in blood pressure or pulse rate associated with a faint can come on in seconds. This is why the patient's blood pressure and ECG should be continuously monitored during the test.

In extreme, rare cases, tilt table testing could provoke seizures, or even cause the heart to stop. The heart resumes beating normally upon being returned to a flat or head-down position.

If at any time in tilt table testing, a patient loses consciousness, he or she will be returned to a supine or head down position and will be given immediate medical attention, which could include being given fluids or perhaps atropine or adrenaline.


These findings suggest a positive induced cardiovascular training effect in the fighter pilots group. Repetitive exposure to higher G forces results in an increased resting mean arterial pressure and an elevated heart rate response to tilt table tests, which may provide benefits to operational fighter pilots.

Head-up tilt table testing can be used to evaluate autonomic dysfunction and is frequently helpful for the work-up of fibromyalgia (FM) complaints, including fatigue, dizziness, and palpitations. One of the most common events experienced by FM patients during tilt table testing is postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, (POTS) which is defined as a heart rate increase of more than 30 beats per minute after more than 3 minutes of standing upright.

In a study of adolescants, CFS subjects were more susceptible to orthostatic intolerance (OI) than controls, the cardiovascular response predominantly manifest as POTS without hypotension, a response unique to CFS suggesting further investigation is warranted with respect to the pathophysiologic mechanisms involved.

It has recently shown that CFS is associated with a short corrected electrocardiographic QT interval (QTc). A relatively short QTc and positive HIS distinguish CFS patients from FM patients. These data may support the contention that FM and CFS are separate disorders.

The head up tilt table test reveals a particular dysautonomia in CFS patients that differs from other conditions and is useful in supporting the diagnosis of CFS. Furthermore these studies indicate that the test is an objective means of monitoring the course and management of CFS

Source: Wikipedia