Clinical spectrum and prevalence of neurologic events provoked by tilt table testing

Arch Intern Med. 2003 Sep 8;163(16):1945-8. doi: 10.1001/archinte.163.16.1945.


Background: Motor activity occurring during neurocardiogenic syncope can mimic true neurologic events.

Objective: To assess the prevalence and type of apparent neurologic events associated with tilt table testing.

Methods: The records of consecutive patients undergoing tilt table testing for the evaluation of syncope were reviewed. Patients underwent a 70 degrees upright tilt for 40 minutes, followed by a 20-minute tilt while receiving isoproterenol hydrochloride. The results of tilt table tests were considered positive when clinical symptoms were reproduced in association with a decline in blood pressure. Clinical variables and neurologic events were analyzed.

Results: Tilt table tests were performed on 694 patients during the study period, and the results were positive in 222 of them. Eighteen patients (8%) had apparent neurologic events during tilt table testing. Eleven patients (5%) had apparent tonic-clonic seizure-like activity, and 7 patients (3%) had non-tonic-clonic neurologic events, including focal seizures (n = 3), dysarthria or aphasia (n = 2), unilateral extremity dysesthesia (n = 1), and reproduction of temporal lobe epilepsy symptoms (n = 1). The patients with tonic-clonic seizure-like activity had a significantly lower systolic blood pressure reading at the termination of tilt table testing than all other patients whose tilt table test results were positive (P =.04). The heart rate at the time of test termination was significantly lower in the patients with tonic-clonic seizure-like activity and non-tonic-clonic neurologic events (P<.01) than in those with positive test results and no provoked neurologic events, and asystole was provoked more frequently in these 2 patient populations (P =.03).

Conclusions: Neurologic events are common during episodes of neurocardiogenic syncope, and this diagnosis should be considered in the evaluation of unexplained seizure-like activity.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Pressure*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isoproterenol
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Seizures / diagnosis*
  • Seizures / etiology
  • Syncope, Vasovagal / complications
  • Syncope, Vasovagal / diagnosis*
  • Tilt-Table Test*


  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists
  • Isoproterenol