A stress test is a procedure that shows how well your heart functions when it's forced to work harder and pump more blood than normal. Coastal Cardiology of Orange County performs stress tests in the office to diagnose conditions such as:
You may also need to have a stress test to determine if your current heart treatment is working or you're ready to start exercising again after a heart attack.
An exercise test is the most common type of cardiac stress testing. During the test, you walk on a treadmill while an electrocardiogram (EKG) records your heart activity.
Before your test begins, your provider places self-adhesive electrodes on your chest and connects them to the EKG machine. Then they put a blood pressure cuff on your arm.
In addition to using the EKG and blood pressure cuff to closely monitor your health and well-being during the stress test, both tests provide vital information about your heart.
The EKG shows irregular heartbeats and reveals if your heart doesn't get enough blood while you exercise. Changes in your blood pressure can show if you have problems with your heart valves or muscles.
This type of cardiac stress test proceeds just like an exercise test. The difference is that you have an echocardiogram before and after you walk on the treadmill.
Echocardiograms use ultrasound to create images showing the structure of your heart, as well as blood flow, valve movement, and muscle contractions.
Your provider compares the before-and-after echocardiograms to see the difference in the way your heart works.
You can still have a cardiac stress test if you can't tolerate exercise. Instead of walking on a treadmill, your provider uses medication to boost your heart rate.
The process includes taking an image of your heart before the test, injecting the medication that increases your heart rate, and then taking a second image of your heart after it reaches its peak.
Pharmacological stress tests are usually combined with nuclear (radionuclide) imaging. During this type of imaging, your provider infuses a safe radioactive substance called a radiotracer into your bloodstream.
The radiotracers automatically attach to blood cells. Then a specialized camera picks up their energy as they circulate through your heart.
Nuclear imaging allows your provider to see how well blood flows through your heart and how much blood your heart pumps with each beat.
If you need to schedule a cardiac stress test, call Coastal Cardiology of Orange County, or book an appointment online today.