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Exercise Stress Test

WHAT INFORMATION DOES THE EXERCISE STRESS TEST PROVIDE?

An exercise stress test provides an objective measure of a patient's exercise capacity. It enables us to evaluate a patient's heart rate and blood pressure response to exercise (your heart rate and blood pressure normally rise in response to increasing activity and subsequently decrease back to normal with rest) in addition to evaluating a patient's heart rhythm. It also enables us to ensure that the heart muscle is receiving an adequate amount of blood when it needs it the most (ie, with exercise). The test may also provide indirect information regarding exercise-induced asthma.

 

WHAT DOES THE TEST INVOLVE?

An exercise stress test involves the same setup as with an electrocardiogram (multiple stickers placed on different parts of the chest to record the electrical activity of the heart from multiple different angles. These stickers are connected to the EKG machine/computer with several cords). The patient will then be asked to walk on a treadmill. The speed and incline of the treadmill will progressively increase in 3 minute intervals according to a standard protocol. The patient's heart rate and heart rhythm are continuously recorded. The patient's blood pressure is also taken at the beginning of each stage, as possible. The patient will continue to exercise until completing the protocol, unless the patient becomes excessively fatigued or has significant heart or lung symptoms, or abnormal findings on cardiac monitoring. The patient will also be required to breath into a mask before and after the exercise test; this exercise will evaluate the patient's respiratory dynamics (ie, the patient's ability to breathe in and breath out both during and after exercise). This information can potentially provide evidence in support of exercise-induced asthma, which is a common cause of exercise-related chest pain (see the section on "Chest Pain" in "For Patients" - "Common Problems" for more information).

 

HOW DO I PREPARE FOR THE TEST?

The following are recommendations for ensuring an optimal test.

1. Avoid eating a heavy meal or beverages within 2 hours of your appointment. 

2. Take all of your medications as you usually do, unless your cardiologist advises you not to take them.  If your child requires an inhaler for asthma, please bring that with you as well. 

3. Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes and running shoes (as you would ordinarily wear while running, jogging, going to the gym. etc.). Do NOT wear clogs, sling-backs, crepe soles, Uggs, boots, or high-heels. These will make running on a treadmill either inefficient, unsafe, or both.  

 

WHY IS THE EXERCISE TEST TYPICALLY ORDERED?

The following are reasons that your doctor may order an exercise stress test:

  • Chest pain with activity (during or after)
  • Syncope (loss of consciousness) during or after activity, or dizziness with activity
  • Shortness of breath during activity
  • High blood pressure ("hypertension")
  • Congenital heart disease
    • coronary artery anomaly
    • aortic valve disease (aortic stenosis or aortic insufficiency)
  • Cardiomyopathy
    • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
    • Dilated cardiomyopathy
  • Extra Heart Beats or Heart Rhythm Abnormalities (Arrhythmias)
    • Premature ventricular contractions
    • Ventricular Tachycardia
    • Supraventricular Tachycardia
  • Heart Block (Electrical Conduction Abnormalities)
  • Long QT syndrome

 

You can find some pictures of the exercise equipment below.

 

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Children's Heart Institute

P. O. Box 10066 McLean, VA 22102

Central Registration (patient appointments):

phone - 703-481-5801

Billing Inquiries:

phone - 571-612-2600 /  fax - 571-266-4096