The tilt table test is a test in which a patient is positioned in a supine position and brought to a predetermined angle or angles from the horizontal position. Such positioning helps to determine the cause of any decrease in oxygen to the brain. Different types of drugs may also used in the testing process.
The purpose of the tilt table test is to help determine appropriate therapy for individuals with fainting (syncope) and presyncope of unexplained origin.
Precautions are few with the tilt table test. However, when any drug is used with this test, the appropriate precautions for that particular drug should be observed. For example, when isoproterenol or similiar drugs are used during the tilt table test, the taking of non-prescription drugs for asthma, cough, cold, or allergy; appetite suppressants; sleeping pills; or drugs containing caffeine should be made known to the physician prior to the test. Likewise, the physician should be informed of any allergies to any sympathomimetic drugs, including several of the diet pills on the market. The physician should be told of any serious heart-rhythm disorders.
Syncope is described as a pathological brief loss of consciousness caused by a temporary deficiency of oxygen in the brain. Previous studies have shown the effectiveness of tilt table testing in establishing the diagnosis of neurocardiogenic syncope, and in dictating therapy in patients with syncope of unknown origin. Despite its usefulness, small numbers of patients and brief followup reports have limited the majority of studies. Sensitivity-enhancing techniques, such as the administration of isoproterenol, are applied in specific cases to children and young adults to compensate for the otherwise low sensitivity (20-30%) observed in that population.
In order for a patient to make informed decisions about any diagnostic test or procedure, there are important questions that need to be asked prior to the procedure. The information gained will be helpful for that patient in determining benefits, risks, and cost of the procedure, and alternatives. The patient should understand the purpose of the tilt table test, and the diagnosis that the physician is trying to confirm or rule out. If the tilt table test is positive, the patient should ask questions about the frequency of false-positive results for that particulare tilt table procedure, and should inquire about the next step in treatment.
After the procedure, the patient is asked to transfer from the supine position to a sitting position, and is observed for a short period of time. During this time and after several minutes in the sitting position, any symptoms of dizziness and vertigo are noted. When ready, the individual transfers from the sitting position to standing. After additional observation and taking of vital signs, the individual is allowed to go home.
Risks of the tilt table test are low, but do include significant changes in blood pressure while in the supine position, and any adverse reactions to any drugs administered during the tilt table test.
Normal results of the tilt table test should help the physician in assessing what may or may not be the cause of the syncope.
Abnormal results include any pathologic reactions to the position changes or sensitivity enhancing techniques, such as the administration of isoproterenol or other related drugs.