What is Stress Test?
Stress tests are tests conducted to determine your heart’s functioning ability and the extent of stress it can take. The test is usually performed while exercising on a treadmill. However, when you are unable to exercise, a pharmacological stress test is performed, which uses medications to make your heart work just as it would when you exercise. Pharmacological stress tests are performed to monitor or diagnose heart conditions, causes of symptoms like chest pain, weakness, and shortness of breath, determine your risk for a heart attack and decide on the need for surgery. Medications used for this procedure can be of 2 types:
- Those that work on your heart muscles to make the heart beat faster and stronger; hence, increasing the blood flow
- Those that widen your blood vessels to increase blood flow.
Procedure of Pharmacological Stress Test
The pharmacological stress test is an outpatient procedure. Before the test, your doctor attaches electrodes to your chest and performs a baseline ECG, to determine your heart’s activity at rest. Your doctor then inserts an intravenous line into the veins of your arms and administers the medication. ECGs are recorded at various points for the entire procedure after the medication is given. Like all procedures, a pharmacological stress test may be associated with a few side effects, such as light-headedness, weakness, dizziness, chest pain, increase in the number of heartbeats, and very rarely, heart attacks.