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Cardiac Stress Test


A cardiac stress test helps your caregiver see how well your heart works when it is under stress. It is also called an exercise test or a medicine stress test. A cardiac stress test is usually done to check for blocked arteries in your heart.


Before your test:

  • Informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.
  • Your vital signs will be checked, including your blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing rate.

During your test:

  • 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 send the electrical activity of your heart to an EKG monitor. A wrap or belt may be placed around your waist to hold the cables in place. You will start exercising on a stationary bike or treadmill and increase the exercise to your highest level. If you are not able to exercise, you may be given an injection of medicine to make your heart work harder.
  • The test will usually last about 8 to 12 minutes. It will be stopped early if you have chest pain or are short of breath, weak, tired, or dizzy. Your heart will be monitored with the EKG during the test. Your caregiver will check your breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate during the test. You may be asked to breathe into a tube. Your caregiver will tell you when to stop exercising. After the exercise, you will be asked to sit or lie down. Your breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate will be taken again during the next several minutes.
  • An imaging study is sometimes done during the stress test. An echocardiogram uses sound waves to show your heart's response to the stress. Myocardial perfusion imaging uses a radioactive liquid that is injected. A camera records the flow of the liquid through your heart to see how the stress affects it. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.


A cardiac stress test may cause you to feel dizzy, lightheaded, and weak. You may feel your heart throb or race. You may have chest pain or a heart attack.


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.

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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.