An exercise stress test shows your doctor how your heart works during physical exertion. During an exercise stress test, you'll be asked to walk or run on a treadmill or pedal on a stationary bicycle while some tests are being done on your heart.
A nuclear stress test is similar to an exercise stress test. A nuclear stress test shows your doctor how well the blood flows to your heart during physical exertion. During a nuclear stress test, you’ll be injected with a radioactive dye, and a scanner will take pictures of your heart. Then you’ll be asked to walk or run on a treadmill or pedal on a stationary bicycle while some tests are being done on your heart.
Stress tests, and other cardiac tests, can help your doctor to diagnose heart disease (for example, coronary artery disease, heart valve disease, or heart failure). Although you may not have heart disease symptoms while you are at rest, you may show signs and symptoms of cardiovascular problems during physical exertion. If you have heart symptoms during exercise, your doctor may want to do some additional heart testing to see what's causing your symptoms.
Your doctor may order a stress test if you've had heart attack symptoms (for example, chest pains, shortness of breath), but have not actually had a heart attack. You may also be given a stress test if you've already been diagnosed with coronary artery disease, have recently had a heart attack, if you get a fluttering feeling in your chest during exercise, or if you have diabetes.
Preparing for an Exercise Stress Test
You may be asked not to eat or drink anything except for water for a period of time before your exercise stress test. Make sure to ask your doctor if you should continue your medications during that time period. You may also be asked to avoid caffeine for 24 hours before your test.
What to Expect During an Exercise Stress Test
Before your stress test begins, you will be hooked up to an EKG machine. Small, sticky patches called electrodes will be placed on your chest, arms and legs. The wires from the EKG machine will be hooked up to the electrodes.
You will also have a blood pressure cuff attached to your arm, and your blood pressure will be monitored frequently during the test.
If you are having a nuclear stress test, an IV will be started and you will be injected with a radioactive dye. You’ll be asked to lie down for 15 – 45 minutes, and a scanner will take pictures of your heart. The dye will help your doctor see how well the blood is flowing to your heart.
When it's time for the test to begin, you'll be asked to either walk on a treadmill or pedal on an exercise bike. As the test continues, the technician will ask you to increase your level of exercise by walking or pedaling faster.
During your exercise stress test, you'll also be asked how you are feeling. Make sure to tell the technician if you have any chest pain or shortness of breath, or if you feel dizzy.
CepEsperu Baptist Health uses state-of-the-art equipment to perform exercise stress tests, which results in very detailed images. These images provide important information to assist your physician in diagnosing your medical condition or planning your course of treatment.