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Tilt Table Testing

What is Tilt Table Testing?

Tilt table testing is a procedure that is used to diagnose a common cause of fainting or syncope (SIN-koh-pee). Syncope can be caused by many different kinds of health problems - some that pose a serious risk to the child and some that are not serious. Therefore, it is often important to determine the cause of fainting. The most common type of syncope is called simple fainting or vasodepressor (vaze-oh-dee-PRES-sor) syncope. This type of fainting may be alarming to those who see it, but it is rarely life-threatening. It is caused by an unusual body response to position changes. Usually the heart rate and blood pressure increase when a person stands up. However, in some people, standing results in a sudden drop in blood pressure and heart rate.

If the blood pressure falls too low, there is not enough blood flow to the brain and the person faints. When the person faints and is then in a horizontal position, it is easier for the blood to reach the brain and the person wakes up. The tilt table test is one test used to see if vasodepressor syncope is the cause of fainting. During the test, the individual is placed on a circle bed frame, like the one used for a person who has injured their spinal cord. This type of bed allows the person to be positioned lying flat and then upright without any effort on their part. The blood pressure and heart rate are continuously measured. If the person does not faint with positioning alone, an intravenous medicine called Isuprel (EYE-soh-prehl) is given. The test is considered positive and stopped, if the person faints or feels like they are about to faint. If the test is positive, medications may be prescribed by a cardiologist to treat the problem.

How do I prepare for it?

A positive test is also helpful because it suggests that there is not a more serious cause for a child's fainting episodes. If your child has been scheduled for a tilt table test, you will receive confirmation of the appointment time and location by mail. The child should have nothing to eat or drink for at least three hours before the test. This decreases the chances that your child will become nauseated during the procedure. Before beginning the test, an IV will be started which does involve a small amount of pain. The rest of the test is painless. If Isuprel is given, it will make your child's heart pound and feel like it would with heavy exercise or excitement. A physician and trained technicians will be with your child throughout the test. After the test is completed, a pediatric cardiologist will discuss the test results and treatment plan with your family. There is no special care required after the test is over, and you will be able to take your child home after speaking with the doctor.

What if I have questions?

If you have additional questions you may contact the Michigan Congenital Heart Center at the University of Michigan at (734) 764-5176.

2006: Information reviewed and approved by Laura Bell, RN, MSN, PNP Pediatric Cardiac Surgery and Lynda Dettling RN, BSN.


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