Description of Test
ECG electrodes will be attached to your chest. The electrodes are small, sticky patches with wires. Your resting blood pressure and ECG readings will be taken.
The cardiac stress test is done on a treadmill or a stationary bike. You will slowly start walking or riding. At regular intervals, the speed and elevation will be increased. Your ECG, blood pressure, heart rate, and symptoms will be closely monitored.
The test may be stopped early if you feel extremely tired, get chest pain, have trouble breathing, or if you have any symptoms that suggest heart problems. Significant changes in the ECG will also stop the test. After exercise is complete, your blood pressure, heart rate, and ECG will be monitored until levels return to normal.
A blood flow imaging exam may also be ordered. This is called a nuclear stress test. A small amount of radioactive chemical will be injected into a vein when you are exercising at your peak. Scans will be taken while you lie in different positions under a special camera. The images will help identify areas of the heart that may not be receiving enough oxygen. After you have rested for about an hour, a second set of images will be taken.
A stress echocardiogram may also be done. This is an ultrasound, which takes pictures of the heart before and right after exercise.
A cardiologist will review the test results and send a report to your doctor. The report is often sent within 24 hours.
One or more of the following are considered a positive stress test:
- ECG changes that show low oxygen supply to the heart
- You develop chest pain or trouble breathing, especially if associated with ECG changes
- Nuclear stress test results that show areas of your heart that are not receiving enough oxygen during exercise
- Failure to properly increase heart rate and/or blood pressure during exercise
The test might suggest that you have a heart condition when you do not. Or, the test might suggest that you do not have a heart condition when you actually do. Your doctor may do more tests to confirm the diagnosis. Talk to your doctor about your results.