Autonomic Testing

Autonomic testing is a neurologic procedure in which the autonomic nervous system (ANS)’s function is evaluated.  The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is the part of the nervous system that controls your breathing, your blood pressure, your heart rate, the movement of your gastrointestinal tract, your skin temperature, and numerous other functions.

What happens during Autonomic Testing?

Autonomic testing, as performed at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, is actually comprised of two distinct tests:  Sudomotor Testing and Heart Rate Variability Testing.  During Sudomotor Testing, wires with a sticky end are attached to the hand.  An electric pulse (so small that you will not even feel it) is sent through the wire to test whether there is a “sudomotor” response.  Such a response is one sign of a healthy autonomic nervous system.  During Heart Rate Variability Testing, those same wires with sticky ends are placed on your chest, over your heart.  No electric pulses are used.  Rather, the wires are used simply to monitor your heart rate.  You will be asked to remain lying down and relaxed for a few minutes.  Then, you will be asked to breath slowly and deeply for a few minutes.

Is Autonomic Testing painful?

Autonomic Testing is not painful.  There are no needles and no radiation.

Why do I need Autonomic Testing?

Autonomic Testing evaluates the autonomic nervous system (ANS).  This may help your physician to diagnose any problems with your ANS, to understand what parts of your ANS are working well, and which parts of your ANS are not working well.  The testing may also be used if you are being treated for a problem with your ANS and to monitor that treatment.

How do I get results of the Autonomic Testing?

Your physician who ordered the testing will go over the results with you.  The results will be available to your physician around one week after you complete the evaluation.

Preparation for the Testing

  • Clothing:
    • Shirt: The shirt should be short-sleeved and easy to lift up or unbutton.
    • Any undergarments should not have wiring/metal
  • Do not wear any lotions on your skin
  • If you have a pacemaker, vagal nerve stimulator, or implantable device, please let the technician know prior to your procedure.