Exercise Stress Testing

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An exercise stress test, sometimes also known as a treadmill test, or stress test, allows us to monitor how your heart responds to exercise on our specialized medical treadmill. Stickers are placed on the chest to capture your heart rhythm. The incline of the treadmill and speed will slowly increase in short intervals as a cardiac technologist monitors the electrical activity of your heart as you walk and run on the treadmill. The test will be completed when you reach your target heart rate, or sooner in the event that you tell the technologist that you wish to stop.

Your doctor uses the exercise stress test to:

  • See how well your heart responds to the different levels of exercise.
  • Determine the appropriate level of exercise for you, as well as determine whether there is a blood flow reduction in the arteries supplying the heart.
  • Detect abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) and diagnose the presence or absence of coronary artery disease.

To prepare: 

  • Avoid oily or greasy skin creams and lotions the day of the test, as the cream can interfere with the electrode-skin contact.
  • Take your usual medications unless otherwise directed by your physician.

What to wear: 

  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes that are suitable for walking on a treadmill, and bring a water bottle.

What to expect: 

  • A technologist will explain the test to you, take a brief medical history, and answer any questions you may have. Your blood pressure, heart rate, and electrocardiogram (ECG) will be monitored before, during, and after the test.
  • You will be asked to remove all upper body clothing, and to put on a gown with the opening to the front.
  • Adhesive stickers called electrodes will be put onto your chest to capture an ECG. The sites where the electrodes are placed will be cleaned with alcohol and shaved if necessary. A mild abrasion may also be used to ensure a good quality ECG recording.
  • You will be asked to walk on a treadmill. The walk starts off slowly, then the speed and incline increases at set times. Inform the technologist how you are feeling during the test. The technician will monitor your heart and let you know when the test is completed.
  • Following the test, your blood pressure, heart rate, and ECG will be monitored for three to five minutes after exercise.
  • The test takes about 30 minutes to complete.
  • The data will be reviewed by a cardiologist after the test is completed. A report will be sent to the doctor(s) involved in your care.

After the procedure: 

  • People can resume their normal daily activities, including driving, after an exercise stress test.