What is a Tilt Table Test and why have one?

The Tilt Table Test a specific test that will assess if you have a tendency to faint.

What is a Tilt Test?

This a safe test where you blood pressure and heart rhythm are monitored while lying and standing. You will be asked to lie on a special bed called a Tilt Table which can be adjusted to move slowly until you are almost in the upright (standing) position. There is no further tilting and no rotating involved. The bed also has a footplate at the bottom to rest your feet on. You will be supported with 2 safety belts, one for your chest and one across your knees.  At Imperial, this test is performed by a Syncope Nurse Specialist who will remain with you throughout the test.

Why do I need a Tilt Test?

You may have been experiencing symptoms such as loss of consciousness (fainting/blackouts), dizziness or feeling light-headed, which may be due to a drop in blood pressure or sometimes slowing of the heart rate.  Tilt testing is used to determine the reason why this is happening.

What happens during a Tilt Test how long does it take?

Electrodes (stickers) and leads will be placed on your chest and a small cuff placed around one of your fingers to measure you heart rate and blood pressure.

It is important that you are relaxed and quiet throughout the test as talking can disturb the information being recorded.

The room will be darkened but a low light will remain on throughout the test.

You may be given medication that is administered under the tongue as a mouth spray (Glyceryl trinitrate) but your Nurse Specialist will discuss this with you when you arrive for the test. This is a very short acting drug and there are no long term side effects from it.

The length of time the test takes depends on when, or if, you experience a change in blood pressure or heart rate. For some people this takes a few minutes, and for others, the test may be completed without any symptoms.  The maximum time of testing would be 35 minutes, however you will need to allow approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours in the department, so that a full history of your events can be collected by the Nurse Specialist. 

Are there any risks involved in having a Tilt Test?

Head up Tilt testing is a safe procedure and the rate of complications is very low. The presence of a prolonged slowing or pause of the heart rate is an expected outcome. Some patients do go on to faint during this test, and this is very useful in helping us arrive at a diagnosis. If you do have a faint, be assured that you are in the best environment for us to be able to recover you in a safe and controlled manner.

No complications have been published with the use of Gylceryl trinitrate spray. Minor side effects, such as a short-lived headache is common. Less then 1% of people require longer time to recover after the test.

Why do I need a Tilt Test?

You may have been experiencing symptoms such as loss of consciousness (fainting/blackouts), dizziness or feeling light-headed, which may be due to a drop in blood pressure or sometimes slowing of the heart rate.  Tilt testing is used to determine the reason why this is happening.

In the video below Professor Richard Sutton, a pioneer in using tilt test to understanding why people faint talks about the benefits of attending a tilt test.

What happens during a Tilt Test how long does it take?

Electrodes (stickers) and leads will be placed on your chest and a small cuff placed around one of your fingers to measure you heart rate and blood pressure.

It is important that you are relaxed and quiet throughout the test as talking can disturb the information being recorded.

The room will be darkened but a low light will remain on throughout the test.

You may be given medication that is administered under the tongue as a mouth spray (Glyceryl trinitrate) but your Nurse Specialist will discuss this with you when you arrive for the test. This is a very short acting drug and there are no long term side effects from it.

The length of time the test takes depends on when, or if, you experience a change in blood pressure or heart rate. For some people this takes a few minutes, and for others, the test may be completed without any symptoms.  The maximum time of testing would be 35 minutes, however you will need to allow approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours in the department, so that a full history of your events can be collected by the Nurse Specialist. 

Are there any risks involved in having a Tilt Test?

Head up Tilt testing is a safe procedure and the rate of complications is very low. The presence of a prolonged slowing or pause of the heart rate is an expected outcome. Some patients do go on to faint during this test, and this is very useful in helping us arrive at a diagnosis. If you do have a faint, be assured that you are in the best environment for us to be able to recover you in a safe and controlled manner.

No complications have been published with the use of Gylceryl trinitrate spray. Minor side effects, such as a short-lived headache is common. Less then 1% of people require longer time to recover after the test.

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About the author

stop fainting team

Stop Fainting Team

The core team of STOP FAINTING currently work together in the Syncope Diagnostic Unit at the Hammersmith Hospital - a busy tertiary Cardiology centre in London, UK. Over the past 6 years the team has developed a number of key collaborative relationships through our clinical work, research and lecturing roles. We have drawn on these relationships to develop our service and to contribute to StopFainting.com.