Regular Stress test
Picture of a guy running on the treadmill
WHAT IS A STRESS TEST?
A stress test is a test that provides data about the physical reactions oh the heart as it undergoes physical exercise or stress. As you exercise, your heart must do more work to keep up with the demand of your muscles for blood and oxygen. That demand is considered stress, and the stress test measures how well your heart adjusts to varying degrees of stress.
WHAT KIND OF INFORMATION DOES THE STRESS TEST SHOW?
The stress test shows the electrical rhythm of the heart and any anomalies that might be present while the heart is being tasked by physical activity. The result may show irregular heart rhythm or changes that are suspicious for coronary artery disease, a condition where a blockage in an artery causes reduced blood supply of portion of the heart muscle.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I FAIL A STRESS TEST?
If the stress test is abnormal it is usually necessary proceeding with more invasive tests, like cardiac catheterization to confirm the diagnosis and to possibly fix the problem (see angioplasty below).
Other type of Stress Test
Sometimes we add imaging to a regular stress test to increase the accuracy of the result. This can be done by performing a stress echocardiogram or a nuclear stress test.
1. STRESS ECHOCARDIOGRAM.
Before and after performing a regular stress test, echocardiographic images are collected to check the motion of the heart muscle. An abnormality will support the suspect that a portion of the heart is not receiving enough blood supply.
2. NUCLEAR STRESS TEST.
During this test, a radioactive tracer is injected in the IV of the patients at the peak of exercise. This tracer will reach the heart based on blood supply. Soon after the test the patient will lay on a table where a machine will receive the signal from the tracer. The better is the blood supply, the higher will be the signal. Also, in this case, abnormalities in the tracer will support the suspect of a blockage in an artery. This test is very useful also for patient who cannot exercise on the treadmill, because he can be done by injecting a drug (Pharmacological stress test) that simulates he exercise.
DO I NEED TO BE FASTING FOR A STRESS TEST?
Yes, from the night before. And please avoid caffeine for 12 hours before the test.