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What you need to know about the stress test

Doctors utilize a stress test, often called an exercise test or a treadmill test, to determine how effectively a patient’s heart functions during physical activity.

A stress test can also assist a doctor in recommending the appropriate form of physical exercise for a patient.

A stress test involves the patient walking on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bicycle while their breathing, blood pressure, and cardiac rhythm are all monitored. Some patients, such as those with arthritis, will be unable to complete the tasks required for an exercise stress test.

Why take a stress test?

The doctor may recommend a stress test to find out if the patient:

has heart-related symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or chest pain

is suitable for an exercise program or cardiac rehabilitation program, and if so, how hard they should exercise

is responding to heart treatment

needs other tests to detect narrowed arteries, such as a coronary angiogram

has arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat or abnormal heart rhythm.

The stress test can identify abnormalities such as inadequate blood flow through the coronary arteries when the heart beats harder during exercise. These issues may not be visible at other times.

The heart may beat irregularly if the electrical impulses that coordinate cardiac rhythm are incorrect.

A stress test can identify those patients with obstructive sleep apnea who are most at risk of mortality, according to Cleveland Clinic research.

Types of Stress Test

The stress test can be performed in different ways depending on the needs of the patient.

Exercise stress test

The goal of a stress test is for the doctor to determine the patient’s heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and how exhausted they are while engaging in various degrees of physical activity.

An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is also performed as part of the procedure. This is a straightforward test that captures the electrical activity of the heart. It aids the doctor in determining how effectively the heart is functioning.

An electrocardiogram (ECG) reveals how rapidly the heart is beating. It also examines the heart’s rhythm and evaluates the intensity and timing of electrical impulses as they move through each chamber. The patient’s chest, arms, shoulders, and legs are all wired with electrodes. The patient may have to breathe into a mouthpiece at the end.

Exercise stress echocardiogram test

An exercise stress echocardiography is performed by a nurse who creates a picture of the heart before and after physical effort.

A transducer is a principal instrument utilized. When the echoes reach the organ, transducers create a high-frequency soundwave that forms an image of the heart. A similar technique is used by bats and dolphins to navigate their environment.

To get the best picture, the sonographer (specialised ultrasound technician) will apply a gel on the chest and then slide the transducer around across it.

The patient may be asked to lie on their side for the exam by some sonographers. Others may employ an intravenous dye to improve the picture sharpness. If that’s the case, this will be injected.

Stress test without exercise

If a person is unable to perform the exercise required for an exercise stress test, the doctor may prescribe medication to mimic the procedure.

Using adhesive patches, a technician will connect electrodes to their chest, legs, and arms.

They’ll insert an intravenous (IV) line into the patient’s arm and provide medicine through it. The prescription will stimulate the heart, which may result in adverse effects similar to those seen during exercises, such as flushing or shortness of breath.

Nuclear stress test

A nuclear stress test may be recommended if the first symptoms continue or worsen. This will most likely result in a more thorough and accurate evaluation of the patient’s heart.

The procedure is the same, except that a dye is injected into the patient’s arm, allowing the heart and blood flow to be visualized on an image. It will also indicate where blood is not flowing in the heart. This might indicate an obstruction.

An x-ray, single-photon emission computer tomography (SPECT), or cardiac positron emission tomography can all be used to detect this (PET).

There will be two sets of photos taken, each lasting 15 to 30 minutes. The first will be taken immediately following exercise, and the second will be taken once the body has recovered.