A stress test, also called a treadmill or exercise test, usually takes about an hour from prep time to the actual test. It is performed to assess the heart’s condition. A patient is connected to an electrocardiogram (ECG) monitor that evaluates the rhythm of the heart during exercise.
A stress test will help doctors find out how well your heart handles its workload and can potentially diagnose a heart condition.
4 Reasons for a Stress Test
- Check the heart before surgery. This tells the doctor if a patient’s body can handle surgery.
- Evaluate the treatment of heart disorders. An evaluation can help to determine if additional procedures or treatment methods are needed.
- Determine a fitness plan. If a patient is recovering from a heart condition, a stress test aids in formulating an exercise routine.
- Assess heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias). This occurs when the electrical signals that coordinate the heartbeat do not work properly.
Since a stress test requires the heart to work harder than usual, it can reveal any heart problems, blood flow, blockages, and more. Anyone with symptoms of chest pain or shortness of breath may be a candidate for a stress test.
Treadmill Stress Test Procedure
- A nurse will adhere sticky patches known as electrodes to your chest and arms or shoulders. Body hair may be shaved to help the patches stick.
- There are wires that connect the sensor to an electrocardiogram monitor (ECG) to record your heartbeat and heart waves.
- A cuff is put on your arm to constantly check your blood pressure throughout the test.
- You will step on a treadmill and be asked to walk slowly in place at first. If you are using a stationary bike instead, you will be asked to pedal slowly.
- As the exercise gets more difficult, you can hold on to the railings of the treadmill for balance. Do not hang on tightly so that your results are not affected.
- You may be asked to breathe into a mouthpiece to measure the air you breathe out during exercise.
- You will exercise until your heart rate reaches a target level or until you have signs that you should not continue with the test, such as severe shortness of breath, extremely high or low blood pressure, fatigue, or dizziness.
- Once the stress test is completed, you may be asked to stand still for a few seconds, or possibly lie down with the monitors still in place. This allows the doctor to watch your heart rate return to normal.
- You will be scheduled for a follow-up visit to review the stress test results.
- If at any point and time you feel uncomfortable during the stress test, you are allowed to stop.
Stress Test Results
There are two types of stress test results, normal or abnormal. A normal test result means you do not have significant coronary artery disease, or CAD, but you could still have a heart attack if a smaller blockage ruptures and forms a clot. Your heart doctor will assess other risk factors you have that could potentially lead to heart disease and will recommend further testing if necessary.
An abnormal test result means that you might have 70% or greater blockage. To confirm that the test result is not a false positive, further testing is usually required. A blockage indicates that fatty deposits known as plaques are preventing the blood and oxygen from flowing freely through the arteries to the heart. A stress test will give the cardiologist an idea of a patient’s heart health and what plan of action will benefit them.
What’s The Next Step After an Abnormal Stress Test Result?
If you receive an abnormal stress test result, your doctor may recommend more testing, such as a nuclear stress test with imaging or another test using an echocardiogram. These tests are more accurate and can confirm the result of the treadmill test.
The next step would be to develop a treatment plan that benefits the patient and helps prevent coronary artery disease. Although, every situation is different, and other health histories do come into play before a final decision is made. This is usually discussed at a follow-up appointment after all testing has been completed.
See also: Stress Test vs. Nuclear Stress Test
Dr. Thomas with CT Cardio utilizes an evidence-based approach to diagnose and treat conditions of the heart. He is one of the best cardiologists in the Acadiana area. To make an appointment, get in touch today. A healthy heart is a healthy you.