What Are The Different Types Of Stress Tests Commonly Given To Heart Patients?

When someone suffers from chest pains and shortness of breath, it is common for their physician to advise them to have a stress test performed. This type of test can show how well the heart is functioning and if the symptoms may have been caused by problems with the heart. These are the different types of stress tests that are commonly recommended by physicians.

The Exercise Stress Test

During this test, pictures will be taken of the heart before the patient begins doing exercise. Then the patient will be asked to walk on a treadmill while hooked up to wires that measure the heart rate. At first, the treadmill will start out slow but then the pace will be increased so that the patient runs on the treadmill for around 12 minutes of the total 15 minute testing time. Once the patient's heart rate has reached a certain level, the test will stop and pictures will be taken of the heart again to compare with the pre-test pictures. If the patient suffers from chest pain, shortness of breath or other health issues during the test, it will be stopped immediately. This test allows the physician to see if the heart reacts normally under strenuous exercise. 

The Stress Test Without Exercise

For those who cannot walk on a treadmill safely, there is also an option to take a stress test that does not require exercise. The patient can lie down or sit down during this test.  Pictures are once again taken of the heart before the test begins. Then, the patient has wires attached that will measure the heart rate and give a reading on an echocardiogram machine. Once the normal heart rate is recorded, the patient will be connected to an IV line in which medication will be injected that stimulates the heart in the same way that walking on the treadmill does. Again, the patient will be closely monitored to see how much the heart reacts to being stimulated and if he or she suffers from distress after the medication has been injected into his or her veins.

The Nuclear Stress Test

If a patient continues to suffer from chest pain or shortness of breath after a stress test has been performed, the physician may put in orders for him or her to have an additional stress test known as the nuclear stress test. This test is done in the same way as the stress test without exercise, but a special dye is also injected into the veins through an IV line. X Rays are usually taken right after the test is completed and then again that evening or the next day when the patient is no longer under the effects of the heart stimulation medication. The dye will show the blood flow to and from the heart to let the physician know if there are blockages in the arteries of the heart.

Stress testing is performed to help diagnose patients who may have potential heart conditions. This is why it is important to see a doctor at the first sign of symptoms so both the diagnosis and the treatment can begin as early as possible.