Tilt Table Test

Treating Cardiovascular Diseases in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois

If you have experienced fainting or light-headedness, your doctor is likely to perform cardiovascular autonomic reflex testing, also known as a tilt table test. Your autonomic nervous system controls your heart and blood circulation.

A tilt table test is a type of cardiovascular autonomic reflex testing. Your doctor may recommend this test if he or she suspects your fainting is due to any of the following:

  • An abnormal autonomic nervous system reaction. Fainting can occur when your nervous system incorrectly signals the blood vessels in your legs to dilate (open) and your heart rate to slow. This causes blood to pool in your legs and reduces the amount of blood flowing to your brain, especially if you’re standing.
  • A drop in blood pressure when you stand up. When you move to a standing position, special cells next to your heart and neck arteries trigger your heart to beat faster and pump more blood to counteract gravity’s pull on your blood. If that process is interrupted, your blood pressure may drop when you stand, causing you to faint.
  • Problems with the heart’s electrical system, valves or muscle. Fainting can occur if your heart’s electrical system malfunctions, causing your heart to beat too fast, too slow or irregularly, reducing blood flow to the brain. Fainting can also occur if narrowed valves or a thickening of the heart muscle make it difficult for enough blood to reach your brain. 

What to Expect during the Tilt Table Tests

During this test, you will lie on a table that moves from a horizontal to a vertical position. This re-creates the conditions that may cause you to faint. To ensure your safety, the table has a footrest and safety belts to keep you in place.

During your time on the table, changes in your heart rate and blood pressure are monitored and recorded. Depending on the reason for this test, you may need to stay in the vertical position for 5 to 10 minutes or as long as 45 minutes.

If you experience nausea, sweating, light-headedness or irregular heartbeats, tell a member of your health care team. If you faint during the test, the table will be returned to the horizontal position. The table will also be returned to the horizontal position if your blood pressure and heart rate indicate that you’re about to faint.

If you don’t faint or experience related symptoms, you may be given a medication to make your heart beat faster and harder. 

Preparing for the Tilt Table Test

Your doctor is likely to ask that you not eat or drink for 2 to 4 hours before the test, although you may take small sips of water with medications. You will wear a hospital gown.

Electrodes will be placed on your chest, legs and arms and connected by wires to an EKG. This will monitor and record your heart’s electrical activity. A blood pressure cuff may be placed on your finger, arm or both to monitor your blood pressure. An intravenous (IV) line may be placed into a vein in your arm for delivering medication or taking a blood sample, if necessary.

Allow about 90 minutes for this test. After the test, you are free to resume your normal activities. Depending on the results of this test, your doctor may be able to recommend a treatment plan to address the cause. Or you may need to undergo additional testing.

Learn more about preparing for your tilt table test (PDF, 43 KB). 

Leading Midwest Cardiac Program

Aurora is known for providing one of the best cardiovascular programs in the United States. Our coordinated care includes access to outstanding doctors and services for preventing, diagnosing and treating heart conditions and disorders. We also offer a full-service rehab program to ensure your optimal recovery.

We also have the largest cardiac teaching program in Wisconsin, which puts us in a unique position to access the most recent technologies for diagnosing and treating heart disease.

Our doctors are conveniently located throughout eastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. Find a doctor or heart specialist near you. To get a second opinion or if you need assistance finding a provider, please call 888-649-6892.