Measuring the heart's response to external stress
Cardiac stress tests measure the heart's ability to respond to external stress in a controlled clinical environment. This test can be used to diagnose ischemic heart disease and for patient prognosis after a heart attack.
Cardiac stress tests compare the coronary circulation while the patient is resting with their circulation observed during maximum physical exertion. This shows any abnormal blood flow to the heart's muscle tissue.
During the test, patients are connected to an electrocardiogram (ECG), which measures the increase of their heart rate while exercising on a treadmill or stationary bicycle ergometer. Alternatively, some doctors use intravenous pharmacological stimulation.
Adjusting the difficulty (steepness of the slope) of the test progressively increases mechanical stress. The test administrator or attending physician examines the symptoms and blood pressure response, and results can be interpreted as a reflection of the patient’s general physical condition.