Cardiac stress tests are typically ordered by your physician if you are having symptoms like shortness of breath, and unexplained chest pain with normal physical activity. When most people think about a cardiac stress test, the first image that typically comes to mind is a treadmill and electrodes…and rightfully so.
During a cardiac stress test (also known as an exercise ECG), your baseline heart rate and blood pressure are measured and recorded while your body is “stressed” through exercise. Several electrodes, or patches, are attached to your skin at different locations on your body. A blood pressure cuff is placed on your arm and will stay there for the entirety of the procedure. You then exercise on a treadmill or stationary bicycle, with your pace and resistance gradually increasing.
Your blood pressure and the electrical activity of your heart will be recorded throughout the test. The electrocardiogram (ECG) will continually record the electrical activity of your heart during the exercise.
If you are unable to run on a treadmill, a nuclear stress test may be needed. This involves receiving a radioactive tracer through an IV, which will show if the heart muscle is receiving a sufficient blood supply under stressful and resting conditions. A camera is used during a nuclear stress test to view your heart muscle, helping our radiologists to determine any unhealthy areas of the heart.
Any abnormalities in your blood pressure or heart rate during a cardiac stress test could be a sign of heart disease such as coronary artery disease (CAD), or fatty deposits that block blood flow to the heart. A cardiac stress test will help to show the likelihood of developing such a disease and determine whether further diagnostic testing is necessary.
Cardiac stress tests are designed to detect heart blockages at 70% or more. This is typically the stage where symptoms of CAD are present. It is important to note however, that many heart attacks can and do occur when blockages are much less than 70%.
If you are having concerning symptoms or have a history of heart disease in your family, it is important to talk to your physician about whether or not a cardiac stress test is right for you. If it is determined that this test is needed, Independent Imaging’s board-certified radiologists can perform a cardiac stress test.