What is a stress test?
The stress test (or ergometric test) is a diagnostic test during which the electrocardiogram (ECG) is continuously recorded while the patient performs a controlled and gradual increase in physical effort, walking on an inclined platform, called a treadmill, or pedaling on a special exercise bike (cycle ergometer).
What is the stress test for?
The stress test is used to evaluate any ECG disturbances and / or modifications produced by the effort. In patients with known or suspected ischemic heart disease, it mainly provides information about the correct flow of blood through the vessels that supply the heart (coronary), while in patients with heart failure the functional capacity of the cardiovascular system and rhythm disturbances (bradycardias or tachycardias) are assessed.
In the arrhythmological context, the examination is useful for assessing the behavior of the heart rate, atrioventricular conduction, ventricular repolarization and, in particular, the onset of any atrial or ventricular arrhythmias during or after exertion.
How is the stress test performed?
During preparation, electrodes (adhesive metal plates) are applied to the patient’s chest and back and a first reference ECG is recorded at rest. Then the patient begins physical exertion, pedaling on an exercise bike (cycle ergometer) or walking on a treadmill.
The effort is progressive and is increased by constantly increasing the resistance opposed by the pedals of the cycle ergometer or the speed of the treadmill. During the examination, cardiac activity is continuously monitored through the monitor. Furthermore, blood pressure is detected during the various workloads. This enables the evaluation of both the exercise tolerance and the recovery capacity of a subject, simultaneously evaluating moment by moment the presence or absence of any anomalies.
During the execution of the examination, which lasts about 30 minutes, much attention is paid to the symptoms that the patient may experience and their relationship with any changes in the electrocardiogram.
What are the risks associated with the stress test?
The stress test does not expose the patient to particular risks, as the examination is carried out by trained personnel and in a suitable and equipped laboratory to deal with any complications or emergencies that may occur during the test.
What is the preparation for the stress test?
The stress test does not require particular preparation, but some conditions must be respected:
- The exam is performed with a patient fasting for at least 3 hours.
- The patient must not have had tea or coffee or smoked on the day of the exam.
- The suspension of any therapies is at the discretion of the doctor who requests the examination.
- Clothing suitable for performing physical exercise (tracksuit, sneakers, etc.) is required.
- Remember to always bring previous health documentation.
What are the bureaucratic procedures for performing the stress test?
Before the test is performed, acceptance of the exam must be carried out.
The stress test can be performed in agreement with the national health system (NHS). In this case, it must be requested from your general practitioner or specialist with a prescription stating “exercise electrocardiogram”, with an indication of the clinical question.
The stress test can also be performed privately. In this case, it is not mandatory to have a specialist’s prescription.
If you need to book a Stress Test -> Information request and / or exam