Determining the cause of unexplained fainting
During this test, you’ll lie on a table that can be tilted at different angles while your doctor monitors your blood pressure, pulse, oxygen levels, and heart’s electrical activity. Altering positions changes how gravity affects your blood flow and can trigger fainting or accompanying symptoms.
The test can help show if your fainting is the result of an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) or another heart condition.
What to expect during a tilt table test
Your doctor likely will ask that you not eat or drink before the test. Ask if you should stop taking any medication before your exam.
A member of the care team will place sticky patches called electrodes on your chest, legs, and arms. The electrodes will connect to an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) machine to monitor your heart rate. You’ll also wear a blood pressure monitor and have an IV placed in your arm, which may be needed to deliver medication during the test.
During the test, you will lie flat on a table with straps across your waist and knees to keep you in place. Your heart rate and blood pressure will be monitored for about five minutes while lying in a horizontal position. The table will then be quickly moved to a vertical position to stimulate moving from lying down to standing up. You may stay in this position from 10 to 45 minutes.
If you don’t faint or experience lightheadedness, nausea, or irregular heartbeats, you may be given a medication that makes you more sensitive to the tilting. You’ll then be monitored again for up to 20 minutes.
If you faint or changes in your blood pressure or heart rate indicate you’re about to faint, you’ll immediately be returned to a horizontal position and monitored closely. Most people will regain consciousness quickly. After the test, you may be monitored to ensure that you are feeling well and that your blood pressure has returned to normal.
Your doctor will review the results of your tilt table test and discuss them with you. Additional tests may be needed based on the results.
Ask MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute
Have general questions for our heart and vascular program? Email us at AskMHVI@medstar.net. If you have clinically-specific questions, please contact your physician’s office.