Exercise stress testing

Written by: 
Dr Roger Henderson

An exercise stressRelating to injury or concern. test - sometimes called an exercise tolerance test or exercise ECGAbbreviation for electrocardiogram, a tracing of the electrical activity of the heart to help in the diagnosis of heart disease. - is a common test that checks the heart’s electrical activity during exercise. It involves making an electrocardiogramA tracing of the electrical activity of the heart. (ECGAbbreviation for electrocardiogram, a tracing of the electrical activity of the heart to help in the diagnosis of heart disease.) recording of the heart while the patient walks on a treadmill that very gradually increases in slope and speed. It is a safe and painless test, carrying no more risk than fast walking, and medical professionals are in any case present throughout the test to monitor it.

During the test, you will need to wear loose clothing and comfortable shoes. You will be asked to avoid eating for two hours and drinking for one hour beforehand. You will be able to take any medication as usual, unless your doctor has advised you not to do so.

At the start of the test a number of small, flat, sticky electrodes are placed on the chest. These are attached to a monitor that displays the electrical activity of the heart during the test and which can highlight problems, such as abnormal heartbeats or a lack of bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. flow to the heart muscleTissue made up of cells that can contract to bring about movement.. A monitor on the arm also measures blood pressure throughout the test.

Every three minutes, the speed and slope of the treadmill are increased, which makes it feel as if you are walking faster up a hill that is becoming steeper. The test is stopped if chest pain, leg pain or breathlessness occurs. The aim of the test is to have the heart working at 85 per cent of the predicted maximum heart rate (which is calculated by taking 220 minus the person’s age in years).

Once the test has finished, blood pressure and heart rate continue to be monitored while they return to normal. The exercise ECGAbbreviation for electrocardiogram, a tracing of the electrical activity of the heart to help in the diagnosis of heart disease. recordings are then sent to a cardiology consultant, who is trained in reading the results. He or she interprets the findings and sends a written report to the requesting doctor. Although you will not be given any results at the time of the test, these are usually available within several days.