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Stress Test

A stress test, also called an exercise stress test, gathers information about how your heart works during physical activity. Because exercise makes your heart pump harder and faster than usual, an exercise stress test can reveal problems within your heart that might not be noticeable otherwise.
An exercise stress test usually involves walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike while your heart rhythm, blood pressure and breathing are monitored.
Your doctor may recommend an exercise stress test if he or she suspects you have coronary artery disease or an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia). The test may also be used to guide your treatment if you've already been diagnosed with a heart condition.

Why it's done?

Your doctor may recommend an exercise stress test to :

  • Diagnose coronary artery disease : Your coronary arteries are the major blood vessels that supply your heart with blood, oxygen and nutrients. Coronary artery disease develops when these arteries become damaged or diseased — usually due to a buildup of deposits containing cholesterol and other substances (plaques).
  • Diagnose heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias) : Heart arrhythmias occur when the electrical impulses that coordinate your heart rhythm don't function properly, causing your heart to beat too fast, too slowly or irregularly.
  • Guide treatment of heart disorders : If you've already been diagnosed with a heart condition, an exercise stress test can help your doctor find out how well treatment is working. It may also be used to help establish the treatment plan for you by showing how much exercise your heart can handle.

In some cases, stress tests may be used to help determine the timing of cardiac surgery, such as valve replacement. In some people with heart failure, results from a stress test may help the doctor evaluate the need for heart transplantation or other advanced therapies.
Your doctor may recommend a test with imaging, such as a nuclear stress test, if a routine exercise stress test doesn't pinpoint the cause of your symptoms.

Risks :

An exercise stress test is generally safe, and complications are rare. But, as with any medical procedure, it does carry a risk of complications.

Potential complications include:

  • Low blood pressure : Blood pressure may drop during or immediately after exercise, possibly causing you to feel dizzy or faint. The problem should resolve after you stop exercising.

  • Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) : Arrhythmias brought on by an exercise stress test usually go away shortly after you stop exercising.

  • Heart attack (myocardial infarction):Although exceedingly rare, it's possible that an exercise stress test could provoke a heart attack.

How you prepare :

You may be asked not to eat, drink or smoke for two hours or more before an exercise stress test. Ask your doctor if you should avoid caffeine or certain medications the day before the test, because they can interfere with certain stress tests. Otherwise, you can take your medications as usual.
If you use an inhaler for asthma or other breathing problems, bring it with you to the test. Make sure your doctor and the health care team member monitoring your stress test know that you use an inhaler.
Wear or bring comfortable clothes and walking shoes to the exercise stress test.

An exercise stress test is a medical test that helps your doctor to determine how well your heart functions during physical activity, specifically whether it is getting enough blood and oxygen when it is working hard.

An exercise stress test is usually conducted for one of these reasons:

  •  You have concerning symptoms and/or cardiac risk factors that indicate the potential for narrowed or blocked arteries to the heart (coronary artery disease) or an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).

  •  You have already been diagnosed with coronary artery disease, arrhythmia or another heart condition and your doctor is checking on the effectiveness of treatment and how the heart tolerates activity.

  •  You are recovering from a heart attack, heart surgery or angioplasty (a procedure to widen narrowed arteries) and a progress check is needed to check the heart’s function.

You should plan to be in the Clinical Physiology Stress Testing Laboratory for one to three hours, depending on the type of test you are having, but patients are usually on the treadmill for less than 15 minutes.

If you are not able walk on the treadmill because of your health or mobility issues, the stress test can be performed using medications to evaluate your heart. Talk to your doctor about which variation of the test is best for you.

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