Stress Testing And Echocardiogram

Submitted by Medical Health Test Team on October 16, 2012

A stress test is a test designed to find any abnormality in the functioning of the heart and the respiratory system. In the human body, the difference in effort required while at idle and effort required while active is extremely high. This means that the heart and lungs are usually performing at only a fraction of their capability when a person is at rest or at a regular desk based job. When there is physical effort required, the body begins to pump more blood so that increased nutrition and oxygen are available to the muscles that are working. When this happens, the pace of respiration increases because the increased flow of blood demands that faster and greater quantities of air exchange takes place in the lungs. This condition is known as physical stress and it is used to determine the performance of these vital body functions. There are many different conditions that can be invisible or undetectable when the person is resting. These same conditions become life threatening when physical effort is demanded of the body.

There is an advanced type of stress test that can be conducted with the use of an echocardiogram. Stress test and echocardiogram are usually conducted together and simply checks a person's ability to perform the exercise by using certain normally measured parameters like blood pressure and heart rate. The use of an echocardiogram allows the doctor to view the heart through the images produced in the echocardiogram. It is important to note that the term ECG stands for electrocardiogram which is a test of the electrical impulses in the heart and this is always tested in a stress test. The electrocardiogram uses sensors placed on the chest and can show the heart rate based on the measurements received from the sensors.

The echocardiogram is an ultrasound imaging technique. The technique uses sound waves which bounce back off the tissues of the heart. When the heart is pumping blood, especially when the pumping is rapid, it changes shape regularly during the various stages of the pumping action. The echocardiogram views these changes and the attending doctor can look for an abnormal shape in the structure of the heart. An abnormal shape may be present if there is a blockage or an abnormal amount of blood flowing through any part of the heart. As explained earlier, these abnormalities may not be present in a resting heart which is why the exercise based stress test with echocardiogram is used.

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