To perform a stress level test, a doctor first takes the patient’s medical history, which includes information about exercises, explains WebMD. A technician or a nurse places electrodes on the patient’s chest, arms and legs to record the electrical signals of the heart. The electrodes are connected by wires to an electrocardiogram machine. The nurse then asks the patient to walk on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bike slowly.
As the test progresses, the incline and the speed of the treadmill are increased, explains WebMD. The nurse asks the patient not to hang on the railing tightly but to use it for balance to prevent skewing the results of the test. If a stationary bike is used, the resistance is increased as the test progresses, which makes it hard to pedal. The patient is asked to continue exercising until the heart rate reaches a set target or until symptoms such as moderate to severe pain, severe shortness of breath, abnormal heart rhythm or dizziness develop. The patient can also stop when uncomfortable.
If the information gathered from the results show that the heart function of the patient is normal, there may not be a need for more tests, explains WebMD. However, if the results are normal but the patient’s symptoms become worse, the doctor may recommend a nuclear stress test or another exercise test to provide more information. If the results reveal an arrhythmia or suggest coronary artery disease, the information gathered during the test is used to help develop a treatment plan for the patient.