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How Is A Cardiac Stress Test Performed?

Jan 1, 2008
If you have a cardiac stress test scheduled, or if you have concerns about your heart, you may want to understand how a cardiac stress test is performed. This article provides you with the basic background information you need to understand how these tests are performed.

A cardiac stress test is used to evaluate the way your heart and vascular system respond and work together under stress. By stress, what is meant is exercise or exertion. This helps answer two very important questions, 1. Is there any underlying heart disease, how bad is it and secondly is there only underlying heart disease that is obvious when the heart is stressed.

A cardiac stress test is performed by hooking the patient up to an EKG machine. This EKG machine constantly monitors the electrical activity of the heart. There is also a blood pressure cuff placed on the arm of the patient so that blood pressure is monitored at periodic intervals through the test. Some facilities may also attach a little machine to the finger to monitor the level of oxygen in the blood.

Once there is a baseline EKG, which is an EKG showing what your heart is like daily the patient will begin low level exercise. This usually means that the patient is walking on a treadmill and a fairly slow pace or the patient could be pedaling a stationary bike. At three minute intervals the level of intensity of the exercise will increase. At each interval the heart rate, blood pressure and EKG are recorded, you will also be asked if you are having any symptoms.

The ideal stress test is one that is performed with the incremental increases in intensity until the patient is not able to continue, whether that is from fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath, light headedness or chest tightness. The stress test can also be considered ideal or maximal if there are changes noted in the EKG during the test. Remember, that symptoms are not necessarily indicative of a problem, and lack of symptoms is not indicative of there be no problem.

A stress test that is considered less then ideal or submaximal is a cardiac stress test where the patient is only able to exercise to a pre-determined level. One may wonder why a doctor would have a test performed purposely that is submaximal. If it is known that the patient has coronary artery disease the cardiac stress test then is not used to determine the presence of the disease just to see if there is any progression of the disease.

Once the test is finished the patient is monitored until any and all symptoms go away. Technicians also make sure that all vital signs return to normal or baseline vital signs. Once the testing is done you are free to go and it can take a few days before the results are available to your doctor. You will be contacted by your doctor once he or she has had the chance to fully interpret the results. Good luck with your stress test, and here's to a healthy and strong heart!
About the Author
Kurt Lehmann writes about health and wellness issues, including nuclear stress test and cardiac stress tests at http://nuclear-stress-test.com.
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