Cardiac Stress Test

Cardiac Stress Test

What is it for?

Several types of cardiac stress tests are used to assess the effects of physical exertion on the heart. The tests check for blockages of blood vessels and assess the function and rhythm of the heart before, during and after exercise. 

How is it done?

Treadmill exercise test
A treadmill exercise test also is known as an exercise electrocardiogram. Electrodes are applied to about 10 different locations on your arms and chest. An EKG and blood pressure are first taken at rest to be compared with those taken during and after exercise. The treadmill is started, slow at first, then faster and more elevated until enough information has been obtained. The EKG and blood pressure are monitored continuously by trained technicians and nursing staff. A physician is available nearby for the test and involved in evaluating the patient if there is a complication and reading the test results. The procedure usually takes 60 minutes.

Exercise echocardiogram
An exercise echocardiogram test combines an exercise test with a transthoracic echocardiogram. The electrical activity and the function of the heart is recorded before, during and after exercise by EKG. Electrodes are applied to the chest and arms. An EKG, heart images and blood pressure are first taken at rest. The treadmill is started, first at a slow speed, then faster and more elevated until enough information has been obtained. The EKG, blood pressure and heart images are monitored continuously by trained staff. A physician is available during the test, reads the test results and assists with evaluating the patient if any complications arise. A final set of images is taken after the exercise has stopped; those are compared with those images taken at rest. The procedure usually takes 60 minutes.

Dobutamine stress echocardiogram
A dobutamine stress echocardiogram is a test that combines a transthoracic echo with a drug-stimulated stress test. When patients cannot participate in an exercise test for some reason (broken leg, arthritis, etc.), the drug dobutamine is used to simulate the effect exercise has on the heart. Before the test, electrodes are applied to the arms and chest. Before the dobutamine is administered, an EKG, heart images and blood pressure are taken. The EKG, blood pressure and heart images are monitored continuously by our trained staff, with a physician available as needed during the exam. Finally, a set of images is taken after the dobutamine intake is complete. These are compared with the original images taken at the beginning of the test. The test usually takes 60 minutes.

Stress nuclear test (SPECT)
The stress nuclear test measures how well your blood flows to the muscles of the heart and can determine if you have damaged heart muscle. In a single photon emission computed tomography test (SPECT), our specialized nursing staff will inject a safe radioactive tracer into the bloodstream. You’ll be asked to exercise or medications will be used to get your heart beating faster, and then a camera that senses gamma rays will take images of the heart.  The physician is available during the test and reads the test results.

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