Depending on a patient's condition, a number of different stress tests to evaluate heart function are available:
- Exercise stress test
- Cardiolite stress test
- Dobutamine cardiolite stress test
- Persantine cardiolite stress test
- Thallium stress test
If you have a medical condition that prevents you from exercising, your heart rate can be increased with medication instead of exercise. This kind of stress testing is called pharmacological stress testing. Your doctor will decide if an exercise- or medication-based stress test will provide the safest and most accurate information.
What is an exercise stress test?
The stress test involves walking on a treadmill at progressively increasing speed. Blood pressure is monitored, and an electrocardiogram (EKG) records the heart's activity.
Why do I need this test?
Coronary arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. Stress testing is used to detect the presence of blockages in these arteries, known as coronary artery disease (CAD).
The information gained from stress testing will enable your physician to determine whether any additional tests are necessary and to plan treatment.
How do I prepare for a stress test?
- Please wear a comfortable two-piece outfit and supportive exercise shoes.
- You may have a light meal prior to your test (for example, soup and a half sandwich, or juice and toast).
- Do not use nicotine products or consume caffeine for 4 hours prior to your test.
- Continue taking your medications.
What will happen on the day of the exam?
Stress testing is a painless, non-invasive procedure that is carefully monitored by medical personnel. While risks are low, they include abnormal blood pressure response, irregular heart beat, and in very rare instances, a heart attack. You will be asked to sign a consent form before the procedure begins.
Here's what happens in a treadmill stress test:
- Allow about 60 minutes for this procedure.
- You will be asked to undress from the waist up and given a hospital gown to wear. A technologist will place electrodes on your chest for EKG monitoring. The EKG records the pattern and rate of your heartbeat during the procedure.
- You will begin walking on a treadmill. The treadmill moves slowly at first, gradually increasing speed and incline until your heart is beating rapidly.
- The test is stopped when you are unable to continue walking because of chest discomfort, breathing difficulty, leg fatigue, or any other symptoms that make it difficult or unpleasant to continue. It will also be stopped if the EKG and blood pressure monitor show changes that are of concern.
In some cases, the cardiologist present during your procedure may be able to discuss test results with you before you leave. Written results of your test will be available to your physician within 5 to 7 work days. Please follow up with your referring physician.
After the procedure, you may resume your normal activities.
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Reducing your risk for heart disease
- Don't smoke
- Have your blood pressure checked regularly
- Reduce your intake of fats and cholesterol
- Maintain your ideal weight
- Exercise regularly according to your physician's guidelines
Our goal is to provide you with excellent care. If you have any questions or comments, please contact:
Janet Duval, RN, BSN
Manager, Non-invasive Cardiovascular Diagnostics
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