What's the purpose of cardiac stress test?

April 7, 2010

With the increasing regularity with which people are suffering from heart failure, it is not surprising to see cardiac stress tests become more popular. The test is mainly conducted in an effort to help identify the risk faced by a patient when it comes to being affected by a heart condition. The cardiac stress test is especially helpful when it comes to identifying partial blockages within the patient's coronary arteries.

An ECG is another very common medical test used in the diagnosis of a heart condition. This test is not normally accurate because of the fact that when a person is at rest, there may be absolutely no sign or indication of a problem. Most of these cardiac abnormalities will only show up when the heart is required to perform at an increased workload.

The two main answers that a cardiac stress test provides the attending physician is whether the coronary artery disease is prominent only when the heart is required to be substantially more active and whether there is any other underlying heart condition present.

The cardiac stress test is performed with the attending doctor first attaching some lead wires to various points on your chest. This is attached to an ECG machine. Besides this a blood pressure cuff is also placed over the arm. Another small medical device is then placed on the finger to gauge the amount of oxygen present in the blood. Once the patient's data has been gathered while he or she is in a state of rest, the patient will be asked to perform exercise at low levels. After a period of three minutes the intensity of exercise is increased and statistics such as the patient's pulse, blood pressure and ECG are recorded at every stage. The intensity of exercise is continuously increased to a point where either fatigue kicks in or symptoms such as chest pain or lightheadedness sets in. Once done, the doctor will go over all the data and compare readings between one stage of the exercise flow to another in an effort to identify the presence of coronary artery disease.

The patient will also be observed after the test until the symptoms disappear. Because of the fact that exercise raises the adrenaline levels within the body, the stress test is also useful in diagnosing cardiac arrhythmias which are also the result of increased adrenaline levels. The stress test also helps measure the functional capacity of patients that are suffering from heart diseases.

Submitted by M T on April 7, 2010 at 10:56

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