Cardiac Stress Test
What you should know
A cardiac stress test is also called an exercise test or a treadmill test. This test helps your caregiver see how well your heart works during exercise. A cardiac stress test is usually done to check for blockages in the arteries of the heart.
You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.
A cardiac stress may cause you to feel dizzy, lightheaded, and weak. You may feel your heart throbbing or have extra heartbeats. You may have chest pain or a heart attack.
The week before your test:
- Arrange a ride home. Ask a family member or friend to drive you home after your surgery or procedure. Do not drive yourself home.
- Ask your caregiver if you need to stop using aspirin or any other prescribed or over-the-counter medicine before your procedure or surgery.
- Ask caregivers about directions for eating and drinking on the day of your test.
- Tell your caregiver if you are taking blood pressure medicines or medicines for your blood vessels. He may ask you to stop taking these for at least 48 hours before your test.
- Tell your caregiver if you know or think that you might be pregnant.
- You may need to have some other tests done before the stress test. Ask your caregiver for more information about tests that you may need. Write down the date, time, and location of each test.
- Write down the correct date, time, and location of your surgery.
- You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives caregivers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.
The day of your test:
- Ask your caregiver before taking any medicine on the day of your procedure. These medicines include insulin, diabetic pills, high blood pressure pills, or heart pills. Bring a list of all the medicines you take, or your pill bottles, with you to the hospital.
- Do not wear tight-fitting clothes on the day of your test. Wear walking shoes or sneakers so that you are comfortable during the test.
What will happen:
- Electrodes (sticky patches) will be put on your chest. Hair may need to be removed to help the patches stick to your skin. The electrodes will be attached to wires that carry the electrical activity of your heart to the electrocardiogram (ECG) monitor. A wrap or belt may be placed around your waist to hold the cables in place. An ECG will then be recorded on paper. This is known as the resting ECG. Additional recordings will be made during and after exercise. You will be asked to start mild exercise on the stationary bike or treadmill. The exercise will get harder as the test progresses.
- During stress testing, the heart rhythm will be shown on a heart monitor. This allows your caregiver to watch for changes and arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats). When you reach your highest exercise level, your caregiver will ask you to slow your exercise. The test will continue until you reach a target heart rate. It may be stopped early if you have chest pain or are short of breath, weak, tired, or dizzy. Your caregiver will tell you when to stop exercising. After the exercise, you will be asked to get off the exercise machine and lie down. Your vital signs and heart readings will be taken again during the next several minutes.
After your test:
If you are staying in the hospital after the test, caregivers will take you to your room. If you plan to go home after the test but need to wait for test results, bring a friend or family member to wait with you. They can help support you during and after the test.
Contact a caregiver if
- You have a fever.
- You have questions or concerns about your test or medicines.
Seek Care Immediately ifCall 911 or an ambulance if you have any signs of a heart attack:
- Discomfort in the center of your chest that feels like squeezing, pressure, fullness, or pain, that lasts for more than a few minutes or keeps returning
- Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or one or both of your arms
- Feeling sick to your stomach
- Having trouble breathing
- A sudden cold sweat, particularly in combination with chest discomfort or trouble breathing
- Feeling very lightheaded or dizzy, particularly in combination with chest discomfort or trouble breathing
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.