Specialist in Cardiac Stress Tests in Maryland and Northern Virginia
A stress test is a simple examination used to measure how well your heart is able to handle various levels of physical activity. This test is typically completed in order to better diagnose a variety of heart issues such as coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, or other heart disorders.
At the Children’s Heart Institute, we take a family approach to medical care. In addition to the attending pediatric cardiologist, the practice also utilizes the expert medical services of pediatric sub-specialists for non-cardiac problems. For more information about the cardiac stress tests we provide at our offices in Maryland and Virginia, call us today to schedule your child’s appointment.
Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most prevalent kind of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in both men and women of the United States.
During the development of CAD, cholesterol and plaque begins to build up within the walls of an individual’s coronary arteries. These arteries are absolutely essential, as they are what provide a constant supply of blood to the heart. This buildup of cholesterol and plaque will often happen gradually over time, but when the arteries become too narrow to pass enough blood, a heart attack is likely to occur.
An arrhythmia is a term used to describe an irregular heartbeat. This may cause the heart to beat too quickly or too slowly, which can be a serious problem if not treated properly.
Other Heart Disorders
There are many other cardiac conditions in existence. These conditions often require monitoring even after they have been diagnosed so that your your doctor can measure how well your current treatment methods are doing, and adjust them if necessary.
Types of Cardiac Stress Testing
A cardiac stress test can be broken into 2 major categories:
- Standard exercise stress test
- Imaging stress test
A standard exercise stress test consists of hooking the patient up to a few electrodes (monitors) and having them perform a physical activity, which typically refers to running on a treadmill. These monitors create an electrocardiogram (EKG), which shows a graph of the heart’s activity as the patient is exercising.
The EKG electrodes will be able to tell how close you are to reaching your maximum heart rate (MHR). During a maximal stress test you will be pushed to reach your MHR, whereas during a submaximal stress test you will be pushed to reach only 85% of your MHR.
An imaging stress test is a bit more extensive, and can utilize a number of different imaging technologies such as an echocardiography (echo) or a positron emission tomogrpahy (PET). Each of these tests will develop a picture of the heart both while it is at rest and while it is engaged in a moderately intense exercise.
These images of the heart can be especially useful in diagnosing issues of blood flow to and from the heart. Imaging stress tests are also best for patients who have an inability to perform a standard exercise stress test.
What to Expect
A cardiac stress test is really quite simple, so you shouldn’t need to worry or prepare much beforehand. It is a good idea to consider the following before a stress test:
- Plan to be in your doctor’s office for approximately 90 minutes, though the test itself should only last for about 15 minutes.
- Wear comfortable clothing that will be conducive to exercising, and be prepared to remove your shirt in order to attach the EKG electrodes to your chest.
- It may also be beneficial to bring a water bottle or towel to help you cool down after your test.
- Avoid caffeine for 24 hours prior to your cardiac stress test.
- Make sure to tell your doctor about all the medications that you are currently taking, as some could interfere with your test results.
During a cardiac stress test, your heart’s activity will first be monitored while you are at rest, and then while you are exercising. It is normal to feel a bit uncomfortable during the exercise portion of the test, but if you experience any serious pain then you should notify your test administrator immediately.
After the Cardiac Stress Test
All discomfort from the exercise should gradually fade after the test, but if you notice any alarming chest pains, difficulty breathing, dizziness, or other severe bodily pains, you should seek treatment immediately as you could be suffering from a serious heart condition.
Once you have completed the stress test, you will be able to return home to wait for news on your results, which should arrive after just a few days.