Heart disease and stress tests

Stress testing provides information about how well your heart works during physical stress. Some heart problems are easier to diagnose when your heart is working hard and beating fast.

Stress testing at St. Charles Heart and Lung Center is conducted under the supervision of a cardiologist and performed by a registered nurse and trained technicians.

Why do you need a stress test? Your doctor uses the stress test to:

  • Determine if there is adequate blood flow to your heart during increasing levels of activity
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of your heart medications to control angina and ischemia
  • Determine the likelihood of having coronary heart disease and the need for further evaluation
  • Check the effectiveness of procedures done to improve blood flow within the heart vessels in people with coronary heart disease
  • Identify abnormal heart rhythms
  • Help you develop a safe exercise program

There are many different types of stress tests, including:

  • Treadmill Stress Test: For this test, you walk on a treadmill at increasing levels of difficulty, while your electrocardiogram, heart rate and blood pressure are monitored.
  • Dobutamine Stress Echocardiogram: This test is used in people who are unable to exercise. A drug is given to make the heart respond as if the person were exercising. This way the doctor can still determine how the heart responds to stress, but no exercise is required.
  • Stress Echocardiogram: This test is similar to a Treadmill Stress Test. You will have echocardiogram images of your heart before and after you walk on the treadmill.
  • Nuclear Exercise Stress Test: This test is similar to a Treadmill Stress Test, with the addition of an injection of a small amount of a radioactive substance to better visualize the heart tissue at rest and after exercise.
  • Nuclear Lexiscan Stress Test: This test is similar to a Nuclear Exercise Stress Test, and is used for people who are unable to exercise. Lexiscan, is used to chemically stress the heart in a way that mimics actual exercise.