Tilt table tests examine possible conditions of the autonomic nervous system. The simple test has the patient lie down on a horizontal table that has supports for the feet. The table then rises by small degrees until it assumes a vertical position, effectively moving the patient from a lying to a standing position. During the test, various devices monitor the patient’s pulse and blood pressure. Physicians encourage the patient to report any symptoms or discomfort experienced during the tilt table test. These symptoms may include nausea, sweating, bodily weakness, or dizziness. All of these symptoms provide the practitioner with valuable insight into the cause of the patient’s problem. Physicians generally recommend that patients undergo the test after complaining of bouts of lightheadedness, nausea, or fainting. Primarily, doctors use the tilt table test to rule out or confirm postural hypotension as the root of fainting attacks.
As a person stands, blood naturally rushes to the feet due to gravity. Normally, nerves in the legs constrict blood vessels to compensate for the pooling, ensuring the heart continues to receive enough blood to deliver oxygen to the rest of the body. When an individual suffers from postural hypotension, the nerves fail to constrict the blood vessels, diminishing the amount of blood available for circulation and ultimately depriving the brain of oxygen. The individual thus experiences lightheadedness and even fainting. Heart disease may also cause bouts of fainting, making the tilt table test a valuable, inexpensive, and noninvasive method of ruling out underlying heart problems.
As a consultant at Pennsylvania’s Saint Vincent Health System, Jaydutt Patel, MD, specializes in the treatment of cardiovascular disorders. After graduating from the PramukhSwami Medical College in the top five percent of his class, he traveled to the United States to complete his residency in internal medicine. Jaydutt Patel, MD, later decided to specialize in cardiovascular medicine and cardiac electrophysiology, pursuing fellowships at Caritas St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, a Tufts University School of Medicine affiliate, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate.