Reasons, Procedure & Results of Stress Test

Submitted on March 27, 2012

Importance of Stress Tests

Stress tests are used to determine the stability of a given system. However, a medical stress test is typically used to detect the stress on the heart. These tests can be used to determine the heart's tolerance towards a rigorous exercise regimen or other physically stressing events.

Stress tests are conducted using electrocardiograms. The heart's activity is measured both at rest and while performing some activities. This test is usually safe and painless. It is non invasive and can be administered in various different settings. Some clinicians, who prefer to take a stress test while exercising to measure exercise stress, may use echocardiography. There are other techniques like the nuclear imaging technique which may also be used to test exercise stress. Some individuals, who cannot do physical exercise, are given drugs which induce exercise- like stress and the examination can thus continue.

Reasons Why Stress Tests are Performed

These tests for stress can be recommended for various reasons. Here are some of them:

  • To diagnose a chronic disease where the arteries become hardened. This is also known as atherosclerosis or the coronary artery disease. This diagnosis is especially recommended for those who experience chest pains. This disease may often be accompanied with cardiac ischemia or arrhythmias.
  • Stress tests are also done to diagnose causes of heart related symptoms like shortness of breath, light headedness and chest pain.
  • Patients who are already suffering from heart diseases may need to do only light exercises in order to save their hearts from the excessive stress. Stress testing is also done for such heart patients to determine the safe level of stress for that person.
  • Some patients who may not have symptoms of coronary artery disease but are predisposed to developing the disease, may also be screened using tests for stress.
  • Patients who have had a heart failure and are going to get a heart transplant can also be tested for exercise capacity using these stress tests.
  • Stress levels may also be checked periodically to predict risk of heart related conditions such as heart attack.

How To Measure Test Results?

The EKG, which is used to measure stress in these tests, is able to record heart's activities over a period of time. This activity is recorded in the form of a graph which is made on a moving paper or alternatively a video monitor. The electrocardiograph is sensitive enough to measure electrical impulses and rhythms. The EKG is done while the patient is doing light exercises on a treadmill or a stationary bike.