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Stress Tests

How Your Heart Performs While Working Hard

a stress test shows how the heart works under a heavy workload

Mercy Health offers a full array of stress tests to identify exactly what is affecting your heart.

What is a stress test?

A common stress test shows how the heart reacts under a heavy workload. While walking or running on a treadmill, a patient's 12-lead EKG recording and blood pressure will be monitored every three minutes. These findings will then be compared to measurements taken just prior to starting on the treadmill.

The stress test can assess if you have coronary artery disease or arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat) stemming from symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath or palpitations.

Patients may not have food for up to two hours before the procedure, which will take approximately 45 minutes.

Stress Echocardiogram

Along with showing how your heart reacts while working hard, a stress echocardiogram includes ultrasound images of your heart taken before and immediately after your treadmill walk. This provides a more accurate picture of your heart, allowing your doctor to see areas that may be affected by coronary artery disease.

Patients may not have food for up to two hours before the procedure, which will take approximately 60-90 minutes.

Nuclear Treadmill Test

In a nuclear treadmill stress test, the same information gathered during a normal stress test is collected, except a small dose of a radioactive tracer is injected through an IV to see how much of the tracer is absorbed into a patient's heart at the start and at the peak of the treadmill walk. Photos will be taken at each interval, and the doctor will compare resting absorption to active absorption. The nuclear images will provide a more accurate picture of the heart, identifying specific areas that may be affected by coronary artery disease.

Patients may not have food for up to four hours before the procedure, which will take approximately 3.5-4 hours.

Pharmacologic Stress Test

If the doctor feels that a patient is unable to complete a normal treadmill stress test, a pharmacologic stress test may be ordered. Instead of the treadmill creating the workload on the heart, a medication will simulate the effects of the treadmill — either dobutamine (increases heart rate) or adenosine (increases blood flow).

The patient will be monitored for symptoms, blood pressure and EKG changes. Depending on which medication the doctor uses for the test, nuclear or echo images of your heart will be taken before, during or after the simulation medication is administered. The doctor will then compare the images, looking for signs of coronary artery disease.

  • Dobutamine Stress Echocardiogram

    • A dobutamine stress echo uses a drug and harmless sound waves to help see if any blood vessels in your heart are blocked. Patients may not have food for up to two hours before the procedure, which will take approximately 60-90 minutes.
  • Adenosine Nuclear Stress

    • Patients may not have food for up to four hours before the procedure and may not have caffeine, smoke or use tobacco for up to 24 hours before. The procedure will take approximately 3.5-4 hours.

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