What does a stress test consist of and what are the risks of having the test?

February 25, 2010

Stress test is the medical test conducted that indirectly reflects the arterial blood that flows to the heart during the course of physical exercise. When it is compared to the blood flow that occurs during rest, the stress test reflects the imbalances of the blood flow to the individual's heart in particular the left ventricular muscle tissue. This is the part of the individual's heart that helps perform the largest amount of the work in pumping blood. The results of the stress test can also be interpreted as the reflection on the individual's overall levels of physical fitness.

The stress test involves the patient walking on a treadmill or being given an intravenous medication which helps to simulate exercise while being connected to the electrocardiogram machine or the ECG. During the test the patient's various symptoms and blood pressure response is repeatedly checked. When using the ECG and the blood pressure monitoring by itself the test is called a cardiac stress test or an exercise stress test. Besides these, the test is also called as an exercise treadmill test or an exercise tolerance test or a stress test or an exercise ECG test. Those patients who have an abnormal resting ECGs or for those patients who are not able to walk safely, they can then be exercised using pharmacological methods instead of walking on the treadmill. If in the process radioactive nuclides are being used it is then called as a nuclear stress test.

Some of the risks or some absolute contraindications that exist related to the cardiac stress test or the stress test include an acute myocardial infarction taking place within a period of two days. Also noted is an unstable angina that has not stabilized even with some medical therapy. There is additionally uncontrolled arrhythmia. This may have a fairly significant hemodynamic response like ventricular tachycardia or symptomatic severe aortic stenosis. Apart from this aortic dissection, pulmonary embolism, or pericarditis can also occur. Some of the major side effects that can result from stress testing can be palpitations, some chest pain, mild to acute shortness of breath, nausea, headache and maybe even fatigue. Adenosine and dipyridamole which are some of the drugs used can cause a mild drug-induced form of hypotension. Stress tests that are conducted using various radiological agents can confer a low long-term possibility risk of cancer. However, some of the patients that are undergoing such examinations can often receive very little or mostly inaccurate information regarding these risks.

Submitted by M T on February 25, 2010 at 02:10

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