The cardiologists at AdvaCardio, in Houston and The Woodlands, Texas, use stress testing to gauge how well your heart functions under physical stress or exercise. It’s used to help diagnose heart disease and to evaluate the success of treatment you’re undergoing for coronary artery disease, heart arrhythmias, and other cardiac issues. For comprehensive cardiac care that includes nuclear stress tests, call AdvaCardio today to make an appointment, or use their online scheduling service.
Dress comfortably for your stress test and expect to sweat a bit since the point of the study is to see how well your heart works during exercise.
Before you start the test, a nurse or technician attaches sticky patches (electrodes) to specific locations on your chest, legs, and arms. These patches are connected to a machine (electrocardiogram or ECG) that records your heart’s electrical signals during the test, feeds them to a computer monitor, and prints them as a graph on a strip of paper.
Your provider checks the ECG readout to determine whether your heart’s rhythm and activity are normal. You also wear a blood pressure cuff that tracks your pressure throughout the study. When it’s time to start, you begin walking slowly on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bike. The speed and the treadmill incline or pedal resistance on the bike progressively increases during the test. This increases your exertion level and makes your heart work harder.
Depending on the type of stress test you’re undergoing, the full procedure can take a couple of hours. The actual exercise portion of the test typically lasts 10-15 minutes.
You essentially continue exercising until your heart rate reaches the target rate your doctor decided on before the test started. You or your doctor may stop the test sooner if you experience:
If you’re unable to exercise to the point of “stressing” your heart, your doctor can provide medication that increases your heart rate and otherwise mimics what you would experience during exercise.
A nuclear exercise stress test involves all the actions of a traditional cardiac stress test but adds an extra diagnostic dimension. A very small quantity of radioactive substance is injected into your bloodstream that helps your blood flow “light up” as it passes through your arteries and heart. A special camera (gamma camera) produces computer images of your heart in action. This gives your cardiologist a clear view of how your blood flows through your heart at rest and during exercise.