Stress testing is a non-invasive method used to pinpoint the existence or causes of chest pain, breathlessness or exercise-induced heart rhythm problems. It can also determine a patient’s overall capacity for exercise so that the care team can help them manage existing heart conditions. Temple cardiologists and technicians also provide exercise testing as part of our Sports Medicine Program, helping amateur, scholastic and professional athletes measure their fitness and performance.
In exercise stress testing, the patient (under medical supervision) exercises using a treadmill while continuously monitoring their electrocardiogram (EKG), blood pressure, and heart rate monitoring the cardiovascular system while it is under exercise-induced stress allows the medical team to assess heart function, and sometimes to infer the presence and extent of conditions like coronary artery blockage. As well as the general exercise stress test, Temple offers:
- Exercise testing with nuclear imaging, which involves injecting a tracer into the patient’s bloodstream and monitoring it using a specialized camera. This provides a measure of blood flow through the heart while the patient is at rest and while they are active. This involves receiving a small amount of short acting radiation (called a tracer) which is injected into the blood stream to help assess if decreased blood flow may indicate a coronary blockage, or heart damage.
- Exercise testing with echocardiographic imaging, which uses ultrasound to take pictures of the heart at work during exercise and at rest. Seeing the pumping action of each section of the heart helps cardiologists pinpoint problem areas.
- Metabolic exercise testing, which monitors oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production by the body. Combined with EKG and blood pressure, this provides a measure of the efficiency of heart and lung function. Metabolic exercise testing is especially useful for evaluating patients with heart failure.
- Pharmacologic stress testing, for patients who cannot exercise, can provide similar information to an exercise stress test. Medications are administered intravenously—again, under careful monitoring—to simulate the stress on the heart that normally occurs with exercise.