Shortened head-up tilt testing potentiated with sublingual nitroglycerin in patients with unexplained syncope

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Abstract

Background

Head-up tilt testing is extensively used to determine the vasovagal origin of syncope in patients with otherwise unexplained loss of consciousness, although issues remain regarding the method of the test. The diagnostic value of a shortened head-up tilt test potentiated with sublingual nitroglycerin was assessed in patients with unexplained syncope.

Methods

Two hundred two patients (mean age 49 ± 19 years) with syncope of unknown origin and 34 subjects in a control group (mean age 45 ± 17 years) were studied. The patients and the subjects in the control group were tilted upright to 60 degrees for 20 minutes. If syncope did not occur, sublingual nitroglycerin (400 µg) was administered, and observation was continued for 25 more minutes.

Results

During the unmedicated phase syncope occurred in 22 (11%) patients and in one member of the control group. After nitroglycerin was administered, syncope occurred in 119 (59%) patients and in 1 (3%) member of the control group. False-positive response (exaggerated response) was observed in eight(4%) patients and in four (12%) subjects in the control group. The total positivity rate of the test was 70% with a specificity rate of 94%.

Conclusions

Short-duration head-up tilt test potentiated with sublingual nitroglycerin provides an adequate specificity and positivity rate in patients with unexplained syncope.

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