happens when the test is performed?
- First you have an
EKG both while lying down and standing up. Your blood pressure
is taken. Several plasticcoated wires, or leads, are taped
to your arms and one leg so that your heart's electrical pattern
can be detected while you exercise.Your blood pressure and
heart rate also are monitored during the test. You are asked
to walk on a treadmill for about 10 minutes. The speed and
steepness of the treadmill will increase several times while
you exercise. Let the person who is monitoring you know immediately
if you feel chest pain or heaviness, shortness of breath, leg
pain or weakness, or other unusual symptoms, or if you think
you can't continue exercising.After the exercise period is
completed, your blood pressure will be checked again.
A variation of this test uses a radionuclide to visualize parts
of the heart that are not getting enough blood. This test is
called either an exercise-thallium test or exercise-MIBI test
(depending on the radionuclides used). If you have this test,
you will probably need to repeat it on a day when you have not
been exercising hard, for the sake of comparison.
An exercise stress test strongly suggests coronary artery disease
if walking on the treadmill produces symptoms such as chest discomfort,
shortness of breath, or dizziness, and these symptoms are accompanied
by EKG changes that indicate inadequate blood flow to parts of
the heart. A test is considered normal if you can perform a normal
amount of exercise without symptoms or EKG changes. Many people
have chest discomfort but no EKG changes, or vice versa. In these
cases, the exercise test is of less help, and the result will
be interpreted as consistent with coronary artery disease, but
not conclusive. Further testing may then be required.