Patient Education - Lung Cancer Program at UCLA
yourself about lung cancer:
Exercise stress test
An exercise stress test is a screening tool to test the effect of exercise on your
heart. The test gives a general sense of how healthy your heart is. See thallium
and sestamibi stress tests.
Exercise ECG; ECG - exercise treadmill; EKG - exercise treadmill; Stress ECG; Exercise
electrocardiography; Stress test - exercise treadmill
How the Test is Performed
You will walk or pedal on an exercise machine while the electrical activity of your
heart is measured with an electrocardiogram (ECG), and blood pressure readings are
taken. This will measure your heart's reaction to your body's increased need for
The test continues until you reach a target heart rate, unless complications such
as chest pain or an exaggerated rise in blood pressure develop. You will continue
to be monitored for 10 - 15 minutes after exercising, or until your heart rate returns
How to Prepare for the Test
- You must not eat, smoke, or drink beverages containing caffeine or alcohol for 3
hours before the test.
- You should continue all medications unless instructed otherwise.
- Wear comfortable shoes and loose clothing to allow exercise.
Tell your doctor if you are taking sildenafil citrate (Viagra) and have taken
a dose within the past 24 hours. This is necessary because nitroglycerin, which is
sometimes given during a stress test to relieve chest pain, should not be given to
a person who has recently taken Viagra, since the combination can cause a serious
drop in blood pressure.
How the Test Will Feel
Electrodes (conductive patches) will be placed on your chest, arms, and legs to record
the heart's activity. The preparation of the electrode sites on your chest may produce
a mild burning or stinging sensation.
The blood pressure cuff on your arm will be inflated every few minutes, producing
a squeezing sensation that may feel tight. Baseline measurements of heart rate and
blood pressure will be taken before exercise starts.
You will start walking on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bicycle. The pace
and incline of the treadmill will gradually be increased.
Rarely, people experience chest discomfort, palpitations, dizziness, or shortness
of breath during the test.
Why the Test is Performed
A stress test is performed to determine causes of chest pain, the exercise capacity
of the heart, appropriate exercise levels in those beginning an exercise program,
and to identify rhythm disturbances during exercise. There may be additional reasons
that your health care provider requests this test.
Normally, heart rate increases in proportion to the workload and attains endurance
levels appropriate for age and conditioning level.
What Abnormal Results Mean
Abnormal results may indicate arrhythmias during exercise, stress on the heart provoked
by exercise, possible coronary artery disease (blockage in the arteries), or lack
of aerobic fitness.
Stress tests are generally safe. Some patients may have chest pain or may faint
or collapse. A heart attack or dangerous irregular rhythm rarely occurs, but if it
does, the patient is in the best position to receive medical attention.
Patients who are likely to have such complications are usually already known to
have weak hearts, so they are not given this test.
A stress test is less accurate in young or middle-aged women with symptoms that are
not typical of heart disease.
Review Date: 11/6/2006
Reviewed By: Glenn Gandelman, MD, MPH, Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine,
New York Medical College, Valhalla, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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