Exercise stress testing is utilised to diagnose and evaluate symptoms such as chest pain, effort intolerance and exercise induced rhythm abnormalities. Patients with coronary artery disease may have minimal symptoms but exercise testing stresses the heart sufficiently to provoke symptoms and/or ECG changes. The test may also be used to assess response to treatment and monitor patients with previous interventions.
Exercise testing involves exercising on a treadmill or stationary bicycle under the supervision of a doctor and cardiac technologist or nurse. The ECG, blood pressure and pulse are continuously monitored. Exercise commences at a low workload and is gradually increased until symptoms or ECG changes develop, or the patient has exercised to a sufficient level.
Patients should plan on requiring approximately 45 minutes to allow appropriate patient education before exercise, preparation for the test, exercise and an appropriate recovery period.
Patients undergoing an exercise stress test should take their usual medications unless instructed otherwise, not eat or drink for 2 hours before testing and wear comfortable clothes and appropriate shoes for exercise. A 12 lead ECG will be monitored and recorded during the test to facilitate diagnosis.
The exercise test is considered a low risk procedure but all risks will be explained in detail before the test and patients will be required to sign consent.