Cardiac Stress Test

The cardiac stress test is a diagnostic test used in Cardiac pathology for the purpose of patient diagnosis. It measures the heart’s function while placing a heavier workload on the heart. The cardiologist cannot be at the patient’s side while at work, under stress, during a workout or pushed to the limit so this test mimics those activities in a controlled setting.

How it is Performed
The stress is created by increasing the workload on the cardiac system. This can be accomplished by either actual exercise with equipment or by administering intravenous pharmaceuticals. Regardless of the method, an electrocardiogram will be administered during the increased workload to measure the response of the patient’s cardiac system. The tester will also monitor the physical presentation of the patient, including blood pressure, during the event. Both are measured at different levels of stress as well as at different intervals of time. The level of stress is different for each patient based on their ability.

Nuclear stress tests may be done before and after the cardiac stress test in order to measure the coronary perfusion. A dye is injected into the vascular system and pictures of the blood flow are taken for comparison. Blockages and areas not getting any blood can be seen with this test.

All of the procedure is completed in a clinical setting with appropriate personnel such as cardiologists, nurses, and technical staff.

Stress Test Candidates
Based on the American Heart Association recommendations, the treadmill method is the first choice for patients at medium risk for coronary artery disease. The AHA has a list of risk factors such as age, gender, chronic disease, family and history that is used to determine the level.

Not Stress Test Candidates
The stress test is not recommended for low-risk patients. It should not be considered a routine test. There should be an indicator from other means of exam that show that the patient could be at risk for coronary artery disease. For example, if a patient in an older age group with diabetes then it might be considered.
Other reasons not to test include:
•    A heart attack within the last 48 hours
•    Chest pain not yet stabilized
•    An irregular heart rhythm that could worsen
•    Hardened vascular walls
•    Vasculature tear
•    Pulmonary embolism
•    Pericarditis

Possible Negative Effects
•    Pain in chest
•    Heart attack
•    Shortness of breath
•    Headache
•    Nausea
•    Weakness
•    Blurry Vision
•    Low Blood Pressure

Image Caption: Stock footage taken at Beaumont Hospital. 14:18, 28 October 2006 (UTC). Credit: Blue0ctane/Wikipedia