An exercise test to help your cardiologist understand how well your heart
The exercise stress test goes by many common names, including stress test, exercise electrocardiogram, treadmill test, graded exercise test, and stress EKG. The purpose of the test is to help your cardiologist understand how your heart responds to physical activity. During the test, a patient wears electrodes and other monitoring devices to measure electrical impulses in the heart, heart rate and blood pressure while walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bicycle.
In some cases, the stress test may be called for to help your doctor understand at what level of stress your heart begins to experience abnormal functioning, such as irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia) or insufficient blood flow (ischemia). This can help him or her develop a lower-risk exercise program. The test can also help determine the possibility of coronary artery disease, and to determine the effectiveness of procedures or medications that have been used to correct heart problems.
Before the procedure:
Do not have anything to eat or drink, other than water, beginning four hours before the test. Be sure to avoid caffeinated foods (such as coffee or soda) for at least 12 hours before the test. Your doctor will review the medications you are taking (including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications and supplements) and tell you which ones you should stop taking before the test and which you can continue to take. If you have trouble breathing and use an inhaler, bring it with you. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes that you can walk in. While you will only be asked to walk or ride the stationary bike for about seven to ten minutes, be prepared for the appointment to take up to an hour.
During the procedure:
The skin is cleansed and electrodes will be attached to various places on the chest. Wires from the electrodes will lead to an electrocardiograph (EKG) monitor records electrical activity in your heart. The technician will perform an EKG, to establish baseline resting heart rate and blood pressure.
You will then be asked to begin walking on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bicycle, at a gradually increasing pace until you begin to feel very tired. During this time, the technicians will monitor your condition. Be sure to let the medical staff know if you are experiencing pain in your chest, arm or jaw, if you are having difficulty breathing, are becoming dizzy, or are experiencing any other unusual symptoms. The lab personnel will also be watching your measurements and will stop the test if they notice anything unusual.
At the end of the test you will be asked to walk or pedal slowly until you cool down. Your heart rate, blood pressure and EKG will continue to be monitored until they begin returning to your normal, baseline levels.
After the procedure:
The results of your exam will be reviewed and forwarded to your Hurley physician. EKG charts are generally kept on file so that newer test results can be compared to older test results, to identify significant changes in heart function.