Recurrent unexplained syncope in the elderly: the use of head-upright tilt table testing in evaluation and management

B P Grubb, D Wolfe, D Samoil, E Madu, P Temesy-Armos, H Hahn, L Elliott
Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 1992, 40 (11): 1123-8

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the usefulness of head-upright tilt table testing for vasovagal episodes in the evaluation and management of elderly patients with recurrent idiopathic syncope.

DESIGN: Prospective survey.

SETTING: Electrophysiology laboratory of a university hospital.

PATIENTS: Twenty-five patients (11 male, 14 female; mean age 73 +/- 6 years) with recurrent unexplained syncope and seven control subjects with other causes of syncope (4 male, 3 female; mean age 70 +/- 4 years).

METHODS: Each patient underwent head-upright tilt table testing for 30 minutes with or without an infusion of isoproterenol (1-3 micrograms/min given intravenously) in an attempt to provoke bradycardia, hypotension, or both.

MAIN RESULTS: Syncope occurred in nine patients (36%) during the baseline tilt and in seven patients (28%) during isoproterenol infusion (total positives 64%). None of the controls had syncope during the test. All of the patients who had positive test results eventually became tilt table negative with therapy, and over a mean follow-up period of 24 months, no further syncopal episodes have occurred.

CONCLUSIONS: Head-upright tilt table testing combined with isoproterenol infusion may be a useful tool in the diagnosis of vasovagal syncope in the elderly and in the evaluation of preventive therapy.

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