Head-up tilt testing potentiated with low-dose sublingual isosorbide dinitrate: A simplified time-saving approach for the evaluation of unexplained syncope

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Head-up tilt testing is widely used in the clinical assessment of patients with unexplained syncope. However, the lack of a standard methodology and the conflicting results concerning sensitivity and specificity of the procedure have prompted further studies to define a more cost-effective approach for tilt testing.


Our clinical investigation was undertaken to assess the diagnostic value in unexplained syncope of a simple and time-saving protocol for head-up tilt testing, including low-dose sublingual isosorbide dinitrate administration.

Patients and Methods

A group of 73 consecutive patients (43 women and 30 men, mean age 39.6± 21.8 years) with unexplained syncope despite conventional clinical cardiovascular and neurologic assessment and 10 asymptomatic control subjects underwent head-up tilt testing with isosorbide dinitrate challenge. Participants were tilted at 60 degrees for 30 minutes without medication; if no symptoms occurred, 1.25 mg of isosorbide dinitrate was administered sublingually and tilting was continued for an additional 15 minutes.


During the drug-free phase of the test 14 (19.2%) patients had syncope. After isosorbide dinitrate administration syncope occurred in another 28 patients (38.3%); minor symptoms in association with hypotension developed in 10 (13.7%) patients. The test result was negative in all control subjects. The positive rate and specificity of head-up tilt testing with isosorbide dinitrate provocation were 57.5% and 100%, respectively.


This new practical diagnostic procedure was found to be fairly sensitive and clearly specific in inducing a vasovagal reflex in patients with syncope of uncertain origin. Consequently, such approach could give a significant contribution in the diagnostic workup of these patients.

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