An exercise stress test determines how well your heart functions when you’re active. During the test, you’ll walk on a treadmill while a specialist increases its speed and elevation at regular intervals. As you work harder to keep up with each treadmill adjustment, your heart rate also increases to keep up with the demand for oxygen.
Your heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure are monitored as you exercise. You also wear electrocardiogram leads to record your heart’s electrical activity. Your doctor evaluates changes in your vital signs throughout the stress test to detect heart dysfunction and blocked blood flow in arteries.
Your wellbeing is continuously assessed during an exercise stress test. Doctors and experienced healthcare professional are always on hand should you feel weak, dizzy, or have chest pain during the test.
A nuclear exercise stress test is used to evaluate blood flow to your heart. Your doctor can see blood flow by injecting a small amount of radioactive tracer into a vein. Then a special camera capable of detecting radiation produces images of your heart.
The test is usually performed twice. The first test assesses your heart while you’re at rest. The second is done after your heart is subjected to stress, either by exercise or medication. The images show areas of low blood flow through the heart and damaged heart muscle.
An echocardiogram uses sound waves (ultrasound) to capture images of your heart. Physicians use an echocardiogram to see the heart’s valves and chambers and to evaluate the heartbeat. Echocardiograms also show blood as it flows through the heart.
A stress echocardiogram follows a three-step process. An echocardiogram is done before you exercise, then you participate in a standard exercise stress test. When the exercise stress test is finished, you immediately get another echocardiogram so the doctor can see the impact of stress on your heart.
A stress echocardiogram shows poor blood flow and areas of the heart muscle that aren’t contracting properly. It also reveals any part of the heart muscle that’s been damaged by a heart attack or blocked blood flow.
Your physician may order a stress test to: