What Is A Cardiac Stress Test?

A cardiac stress test is a type of test that is performed in order to evaluate the overall ability of arterial blood flow to the left ventricular heart muscle, to increase with exercise, as compared to the resting blood flow rates. This cardiac stress test is basically used to evaluate the heart and vascular system during exercise, and helps to determine whether there is an underlying heart disease that only becomes apparent when the heart is stressed by exercise, and if there is an underlying heart disease how severe it is.

How The Test Is Performed

In order to have this test performed, the patient first is attached to an ECG machine. Then a blood pressure cuff is placed on one of their arms, and sometimes a sensor is also used, which is attached to the finger and which measures the amount of oxygen in the blood. Once a baseline ECG is obtained, then the patient will be instructed to begin performing a low level of exercise.

Typically for this they will walk on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bike, although the attending physician will decide the particular form of the exercise depending on a variety of factors. Once the patient begins this exercise it starts being graded, meaning that the level of exercise is progressively increased and as it is, the pulse, blood pressure, and ECG of the patient are recorded in correlation.

Reasons For The Test

There are actually quite a few different reasons as to why a cardiac stress test would be a recommendation or even requirement for a person, but it is most often done for the following reasons: to evaluate if complaints of chest pain are related to the heart, to determine if blockages exist in a coronary artery or arteries, to identify an irregular heart rhythm that only occurs during activity, to monitor the heart's response to cardiac treatment or a procedure to open a coronary artery, to determine a safe level of participation before the start of an exercise regimen, and to plan the place and intensity of rehabilitation after a heart attack.

Your doctor will be the one who will determine whether or not a cardiac stress test is a good idea for you. But of course if you feel for any reason that you should have a cardiac stress test and your doctor has not yet brought the idea up, then it is definitely something you are going to want to discuss with them.