What is it?
Tilt table testing evaluates how your body regulates blood pressure in response to some very simple stresses. Blood pressure is regulated by a set of nerves, which operate continuously. These nerves ensure that there is always enough blood going to the brain and to distribute blood to other organs according to their needs. These changes in blood pressure occur by making changes in the way the heart beats and by making changes in the size of certain blood vessels. At times, the nerves which control blood pressure may not operate properly and may cause a reaction which can cause your blood pressure to drop suddenly. This reaction may produce a fainting spell or a number of symptoms including severe lightheadedness. Tilt table testing will determine the likelihood that a patient is susceptible to this type of reaction.
How does it work?
You will lie quietly on the table and keep your legs still. The table has three safety straps, one around your chest, one around your waist, and one around your knees—which keep you from slipping as the table moves.
You will be connected to three monitors during the test:
- Electrocardiogram (EKG)- Electrodes attach to your chest and record the electrical impulses produced by your heart.
- Oximeter monitor- A clip on your finger continually monitors the level of oxygen in your blood.
- Blood pressure monitor- A cuff on your arm checks your blood pressure at intervals throughout the procedure.
What should I expect?
For the first ten minutes, you will relax while baseline data is collected. Next, the head of the table will raise to 80 degrees. Since many patients who experience a sudden drop in blood pressure do so after about 30 minutes, you will need to remain still in this position for about 40 minutes. Staff will ask you to alert them of symptoms you experience. Then, if you remain without symptoms after 40 minutes, the physician will determine if nitroglycerin will be given to increase your heart rate and lower your blood pressure. After administering nitroglycerin, the remainder of the test lasts 5-10 minutes. If you are without symptoms after this portion of the test then the test is complete. A possible side effect with this procedure is a headache.
The entire procedure lasts about 1 hour. During the test, you may pass out, you may feel the symptoms you have when you’re about to pass out, or you may feel nothing at all. It is important to inform the medical staff of any symptoms you feel. You should have someone available to drive you home. Your doctor will review the results and make changes to your medication, or order additional medications or testing procedures if necessary.