Exercise Stress Test
An exercise stress test is used to help a doctor determine how well a patient's heart handles work. Generally, a treadmill is used to get the patient's heart rate up while he or she is hooked up to an EKG. During this test the patient's vitals are carefully monitored. During exercise, patients with healthy coronary arteries will dilate allowing more blood to be delivered to the heart muscle. Arteries that are narrowed with plaque buildup will have a reduced blood flow causing the involved muscle to not get the oxygen it requires during exercise.
During this test the patient will be brought to the testing lab where they will first record the blood pressure and pulse while at rest. Electrodes will be placed on the chest, shoulders, and hips and connected to an EKG machine. A 12-lead EKG is used and each lead represents a different portion of the heart. The treadmill will be started at a relatively slow speed and gradually increased until the target heart rate is reached. The vitals are frequently checked and the EKG is constantly displayed throughout the test. Doctors will pay close attention to any changes in the blood pressure, heart rate, changes in the EKG, and the patient's appearance and symptoms. The test generally lasts for about an hour.
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