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A tilt table test (TTT or head up tilt test) is a medical test performed in the process of diagnosing the cause for frequent fainting spells or dizziness. If the test is successful, it can indicate why a patient is feeling lightheaded or faint, and this information can be used in medical treatment. If the test is not successful, it means that additional diagnostic testing will be required to get to the root of the patient's medical condition.
In a tilt table test, the patient is strapped to a table and connected to an electrocardiograph (ECG) machine. Then, the table is rapidly tilted up to simulate moving from a lying to a standing position. In a normal patient, the heart would respond to this change in position to keep the blood pressure stable. In a patient with cardiovascular issues or a nervous system problem, the heart would not respond quickly enough, and the patient would faint.
If the tilt table test is performed and the patient does not faint, he or she will be restored to a prone position for the administration of a drug which is designed to increase levels of stress. The test will be repeated to see if the patient responds by fainting, suggesting that the problem may be related to the experience of strain and stress.
As a general rule, this medical test is very safe for the patient, although it can be scary. Patients are closely monitored to make sure that the medical team can step in if the patient needs assistance, and even if the patient loses consciousness, he or she is firmly strapped in place, and not at risk of falling. Because the tilt table test is performed in a hospital, the medical staff have access to drugs and other supportive measures in the event that they are required.
This test is not painful, and it does not require a great deal of preparation. A doctor may ask a patient to specifically fast or eat in preparation for the test. When the patient arrives, he or she may be left in street clothes, or asked to change into a hospital gown, depending on hospital policies. The leads for the ECG are painless, and the test itself does not take very long. Patients should plan to spend about an hour and a half on the testing and recovery period, and they should secure a ride home, because a tilt table test can leave people feeling dizzy or lightheaded.
I know this kind of test has its place, but boy do I hate them. "Let's do something painful or awkward or uncomfortable to you and see how bad it hurts you!"
I've never had a cardiac tilt table test, but I've had allergy testing, which is another one that's kind of the same idea. They stick your arm over and over again with various allergens and see how much you swell up!
And when I was pregnant, I chose to skip the glucose tolerance test. There, they give you a whole lot of sugar and see how your body responds. (I had no symptoms of or risk factors for gestational diabetes.)