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What is a heart stress test?

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Quick Answer

A heart stress test helps a doctor determine a heart’s ability to endure stress before developing ischemia or abnormal rhythm and is most commonly performed as a treadmill exercise test. Other stress tests involve the administration of drugs that affect the heart, an echocardiogram or nuclear imaging, according to WebMD.

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What is a heart stress test?
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Full Answer

Doctors use the exercise heart stress test to determine how well the heart responds to exertion and use it for patients who have a normal ECG and are able to walk. This test requires a patient to pedal a stationary bike or walk on a treadmill while increasing the level of intensity. During the test, the doctor monitors the patient’s heart rate, electrocardiogram and blood pressure, reports WebMd.

Heart stress tests that involve giving a patient medication make a heart respond as it does during exercise. Dobutamine or Adenosine are medications doctors often use for this test. People who are unable to exercise often undergo this form of heart stress test, states WebMD.

A stress echocardiogram provides a visual representation of the heart’s walls and pumping action during stress. This test is useful for determining if the heart is receiving an adequate blood supply. A nuclear stress test involves injecting a patient with a small amount of radioactive substance and using a camera to obtain a picture of his heart tissue. The technician can take these images during exercise and at rest, and the images are also useful for detecting poor blood supply to the heart, explains WebMD.

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