ECG Stress Test

Stress testing is performed to help diagnose coronary artery disease by providing information on how the heart works during physical stress.

A physician may recommend an exercise stress test because a patient has:

  • angina or chest pain that is becoming more severe or occurring more often
  • had a heart attack, angioplasty or heart bypass surgery
  • existing heart disease or certain risk factors, such as diabetes, and is beginning a new exercise program
  • heart rhythm changes during exercise
  • a heart valve problem (such as aortic valve or mitral valve stenosis).

How is an ECG Stress Test Performed?

To perform an ECG Stress Test, (also called exercise treadmill testing), electrodes are placed on the patient’s chest and attached to an electrocardiography (ECG) machine that measures the electrical activity of the heart.

The patient exercises by walking or running on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bicycle, first slowly and then faster and on an incline. Blood pressure readings are taken during the test, which typically involves 10-15 minutes of exercising. Patients who are unable to exercise may receive an injection of a medication that will make the heart beat fast, as would happen during exercise (called a pharmacological stress test).

The ECG records the heart rate and rhythm, as well as the strength and timing of electrical signals as they pass through each part of the heart during rest and exercise.

Patients who have an abnormal exercise stress test will usually require additional stress testing, such as Echo Stress Test, a stress perfusion study and/or coronary angiography.