Stress test provides information about how you heart performs during physical activity or stress. Some heart problems are easier to diagnose during a stress test because your heart will be beating fast and working hard. There are two main types of stress tests:
Standard Stress Test
A regular cardiac exercise stress test is a painless, non-invasive test. This test measures electrical (EKG/ECG) changes to your heart during stress (like exercise). This test takes 45 minutes. The results of this test help your doctor diagnose coronary artery disease (CAD).
Electrocardiogram: An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) is a test that checks for problems with the electrical activity of your heart. An EKG translates the heart’s electrical activity into line tracings on paper
Treadmill stress test: As long as you can walk and have a normal ECG, this is normally the first stress test performed. You walk on a treadmill while being monitored to see how far you walk and if you develop chest pain or changes in your ECG that suggest that your heart is not getting enough blood.
Nuclear Stress Test
A nuclear stress test, what we call myocardial perfusion imaging, is a test that looks at the blood flow to your heart muscle. We do that while you’re resting and also with some form of stress, either exercise or sometimes we give a medicine to simulate the effects of exercise-medicine that makes your heart work hard just like during exercise.
The analogy here would essentially be looking at the blood flow to your heart the way that gas flows to a car engine. You know, you could have a totally healthy engine, but if you have a narrowed fuel line, you may not be able to step on the gas and get the car to accelerate properly. You have enough gas getting to the engine under resting conditions, but when you step on the gas and accelerate, if you have a narrow fuel line, you don’t have enough stuff to make the engine go at a faster clip. So the analogy works quite well for your heart; you may have a narrower artery that’s supplying enough blood when you’re resting, but when you exercise, that narrowed artery can’t increase the flow to the heart muscle. And we can see that through the nuclear stress test because that’s measuring the blood flow to the heart; you can see where the flow increases normally, compared to those areas where it doesn’t increase. We can do that in one of two ways. We can have you exercise on a treadmill, to see how your heart responds to exercise, or by giving you medicine that makes your heart work harder and beat faster.