Tilt test

Patient having a tilt test

If you’re having dizzy spells or are blacking out, your doctor may send you for a tilt test to see if your symptoms are related to a change in your blood pressure or heart rate.

What can the test show?

A tilt test can help to reproduce your symptoms under controlled, safe conditions. Your heart rate and blood pressure are monitored during the test to help find out why you’ve been having these symptoms. This may help your doctor to diagnose what’s causing your symptoms. Even if your test is negative, the information collected can be useful for future tests and treatments.

What happens during a tilt test?

 

The tilt test is carried out in a quiet, dark room to help you relax.

During the test:

  1. Electrodes are attached to your chest and connected to an ECG recorder like in a standard ECG test.
  2. A blood pressure monitor will be attached to your finger and/or arm.
  3. You’ll be asked to lie down flat for five minutes on a special bed that is able to tilt.
  4. Your bed will be slowly tilted upwards to around 60 to 90 degrees, so that you’re nearly stood upright. The test will continue for 20 minutes, or until you feel dizzy or faint and show a change in your heart rate or blood pressure.
  5. If you are still feeling well, you may be given a glyceryl trinitrate (GTN) spray under your tongue and tilted for another 15 minutes. This can help reproduce your symptoms by making your heart rate a little faster and your blood pressure a little lower.
  6. At the end of the test, you’ll be allowed to sit up and given a glass of water before you’re ready to go home again. 

Your tilt test appointment can last between one to two hours, but you will only be in a tilted position for 15 - 45 minutes of that time. You can ask for the test to stop at any time if you feel you can’t continue.

How can I prepare for this test?

  • Have a light meal two to three hours before your test, then don’t eat again until after your test
  • Ask a friend to come with you for the test, so they can help you get home if you still feel unwell afterwards

Make sure the doctor or cardiac physiologist doing your test knows about any pre-existing conditions you may have before the test, such as:

Want to find out more?

Tests for heart conditions

Tests for heart conditions booklet

This booklet describes the special tests that are commonly used to help diagnose heart diseases.

Some of the tests are also used to assess the current condition of people who have already been diagnosed with heart disease.

 

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