Cardiac stress test

Find out the strength of your heart during exercise with a stress test at Montage Health. This exam can show if your heart disease is getting better or reveal cardiac symptoms that show up only when you’re physically active.

Types of stress tests

Your doctor may recommend:

  • Treadmill test – Measures heart rate and blood pressure as you walk or jog
  • Nuclear stress test – Gives you an injection of a small, safe amount of slightly radioactive dye to show blood flow to your heart
  • Stress echocardiogram – Uses an ultrasound scan to show pictures of your heart as you exercise

Dobutamine (chemical) stress test

If you can’t exercise for a stress test, your care team may instead give you an injection of dobutamine. This drug makes your heart beat faster to mimic the effect of physical activity.

Treadmill stress test

Before a treadmill test, a health professional will measure your resting heart rate and blood pressure. Then, soft, sticky patches called electrodes will be placed on your chest, shoulders, and hips to record your heart’s electrical signals from several areas. You’ll wear a blood pressure cuff on your arm.

Next, you’ll step onto a treadmill and start walking. The speed and incline of the treadmill will increase every three minutes.

The supervising doctor will determine your target heart rate (a safe level for physical activity). The test usually ends when you reach that heart rate. But it may end early if you experience symptoms such as:

  • Blood pressure that’s too high or low
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Shortness of breath

Nuclear stress test

For a nuclear stress test, you’ll receive an injection of a radiotracer, such as thallium or lexiscan. This small amount of radioactive dye makes your blood vessels show up on a special camera. You’ll wait a short time as the dye flows through your blood vessels to your heart. Then, you’ll lie on an exam table so a camera can take pictures of your arteries.

Afterward, you’ll perform a treadmill test.

Stress echocardiogram

This type of stress test starts with a transthoracic (chest) echocardiogram, which uses sound waves to show pictures of your heart while you’re resting. You’ll then perform a treadmill test or get an injection to speed up your heart rate if you can’t exercise. As your heart beats faster, a technician will take pictures of it to compare to images of your heart taken when you were resting.

After your stress test

You may receive a summary of your stress test results before you leave. You can return to your daily activities right away, unless your care team says otherwise.

Your doctor will get a report of the results and follow up with you about next steps.

How to make an appointment

You’ll need a referral from your doctor or a cardiologist to get care at Tyler Heart Institute. Talk to your primary care provider, search for a cardiologist, or contact us at (831) 625-4934.

Getting test results

If you have an online MyChart account, you’ll likely see your test results in the patient portal within 24 hours. Your doctor will call to explain them and discuss next steps. Wait until you talk to your doctor before trying to understand what they mean.

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