What is treadmill stress testing?
Exercise stress testing is performed to determine how your heart responds to physical stress or exertion, such as exercise. The test is known as stress test, treadmill stress test, cardiac stress test, exercise electrocardiogram, treadmill test, graded exercise test, or stress electrocardiogram (ECG).
During the treadmill stress test, your heart rate, blood pressure, and electrocardiograph (ECG) are monitored while you walk fast on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bicycle.
When is treadmill stress testing used?
Treadmill testing is used to
- Check the capacity of your heart during periods of exertion
- Know if your chest pain is due to a heart problem
- See how well your heart medications are working
- Check the success of cardiac procedures such as angioplasty or bypass surgery that you have undergone for coronary heart disease
- To predict your risk of getting a heart attack
- Decide a customized and safe exercise program for you
How to prepare for treadmill stress testing?
To pass your treadmill stress test i.e., to have a successful treadmill stress test, you need to avoid the following things for at least three hours before the test:
- Eating or drinking anything except water
- Consuming anything that contains caffeine
- Consuming tobacco in any form
Additionally, the following few precautions are needed before the test:
- Ask your doctor if you need to stop any of your heart medications. You may be asked to hold them and told to carry them with you on the day of your test.
- If you are on a medicated inhaler, carry it with you on the day of your test.
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
- Remove all your valuables and leave them at home.
How is treadmill stress testing done?
- Your test will take place in the stress lab in front of a physician.
- Electrodes will be placed at different places on your chest. These are attached to an electrocardiograph (EKG) monitor that charts your heart’s electrical activity during the test.
- Before you start exercising, the technician will take your EKG, heart rate and blood pressure.
- Next, you will walk on the treadmill, the speed of which will be gradually increased until you feel exhausted.
- If you experience extreme shortness of breath, dizziness, light-headedness, arm or jaw pain or chest pain or discomfort, you need to inform your technician.
- The technician will stop the test if he sees any unusual change on the EKG monitor.
- After the test, you will walk slowly for a few minutes to cool down.
- The entire visit will take approximately 60 minutes, whereas the exercise time is usually between 7 and 12 minutes.
What to expect after treadmill stress testing?
The results of your treadmill test can be positive, negative, or inconclusive, as outlined below.
- Negative treadmill stress test: This is a normal test that suggests you are less likely to have a significant coronary artery disease (more than 70% block in the coronary arteries).
- Positive treadmill stress test: This result implies that you may have significant coronary artery disease. This warrants further testing.
- Inconclusive treadmill stress test: You get this result when you cannot complete the test due to early exhaustion.
Cardiologists will combine the results of a stress test with your medical history and complaints to confirm if you have heart disease. If you have one, they can decide the further course of treatment for you.
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