A stress test, sometimes called a treadmill test or exercise test, helps a doctor diagnose certain heart conditions. As your body works harder during the test, it requires more oxygen, so the heart must pump more blood. The test can show if the blood supply is reduced in the arteries that supply the heart. It also helps doctors know the kind and level of exercise appropriate for a patient.
What to Expect
You’ll be hooked up to equipment to monitor the heart., then walk slowly in place on a treadmill. Then the speed is increased for a faster pace and the treadmill is tilted to produce the effect of going up a small hill.
You can stop the test at any time if needed. Afterwards you will sit or lie down to have your heart and blood pressure checked.
During your test our clinical personnel will monitor your heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG), and how tired you feel are monitored.
Healthy people who take the test are at very little risk. It's about the same as if they walk fast or jog up a big hill. Medical professionals will be present in case something unusual happens during the test.
Why It Is Done:
Your doctor may schedule a stress test for a variety of reasons, including to:
- Diagnose coronary artery disease
- Diagnose a possible heart-related cause of symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath or lightheadedness
- Determine a safe level of exercise
- Check the effectiveness of procedures done to improve coronary artery circulation in patients with coronary artery disease
- Predict risk of dangerous heart-related conditions such as a heart attack.
Depending on the results of the exercise stress test, the physician may recommend more tests such as a nuclear stress test or cardiac catheterization to fully diagnose your condition.
What If I Can't Perform an Exercise Test?
Sometimes you can't do an exercise test because you're too sick or have physical problems. In this case, a drug such as dipyridamole is given. This drug increases blood flow to the heart and thus "mimics" an exercise test. Then the thallium test is given.