Exercise Stress Test

Exercise Stress Test: How is it performed?

An exercise stress test is a cardiac diagnostic test that evaluates the heart’s ability to respond to stress. It helps to diagnose coronary artery disease and assess the patient’s health condition after a heart attack. But, it is not recommended for patients with unstable angina and extreme obesity. The stress required for this test is either induced by exercising on a treadmill or by pedaling a stationary exercise bike.    

How is the Exercise Stress Test performed?

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Several small sticky metal discs called electrodes are attached to the patient’s chest. These are connected to the electrocardiogram (ECG) machine through wires called leads. The ECG machine records the electrical activity of the patient’s heart, and this is monitored during the study. The patient’s heart rate and blood pressure are also checked. (Image credit)

Sometimes, a patient may be asked to wear special headgear and breathe through a snorkel-like mouthpiece. This is done to assess how well the patient breathes while exercising. After this, a patient will be asked to walk on a treadmill or pedal an exercise bike.

In the beginning, the treadmill or bike runs at a slower pace, but this is gradually increased every 2 to 3 minutes throughout the study. To further increase the heart rate, the treadmill or bike is tilted to resemble the effect of going up a hill. Read Tilt table test: Why is this test performed?

The nurse monitors the ECG patterns and blood pressure while the patient is exercising to see if the heart is getting enough oxygen during stress. The test is generally stopped once the target heart rate has been achieved. The patient can also stop the test if he experiences any difficulty while exercising. The ECG wires remain attached for about 10 to 15 minutes after the test till the heart rate returns to the normal resting value. During this cool-down phase, the patient is asked to either lie – down or sit quietly.

Are there any risks involved in Exercise Stress Test? :

As the test is performed under controlled conditions, there are no risks associated with it. It is often stopped before getting to the level of exercise that would cause the patient’s heart to struggle.

FAQs: Exercise Stress Test

What preparations are required from you?

 You must not eat or drink for 4 hours before the test. Besides, you must also refrain from consuming caffeinated drinks such as coffee and tea for 4 hours before the test. The patient must also avoid sodas, chocolates, and over–the–counter pain relievers before the test.

How long does it take?

An exercise stress test generally goes on for 10 to 15 minutes.

Who performs it?

It is generally done by stress test technicians or cardiology technologists.

How much does it cost?

It costs around Rs. 800 to Rs. 3K to get an exercise stress test done in India.

When can I go home after the procedure?

The patient can go home and resume his daily activities immediately after the test.

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