Cardiac Stress Test
A cardiac stress test helps physicians assess the flow of blood to the heart during physical activity and thereby judge the condition of the heart. It is a fact that the heart pumps faster when under physical stress and it is during these times that the chances of a heart attack are also increased. Those who suffer from abnormal resting EKG are usually prescribed this test. The stress cardiac test shows the flow of blood into the left portion of the heart and helps in assessing the performance of the heart muscles.
The patient is made to walk on a treadmill during the stress cardiac test. An ECG machine is connected to the patient’s chest and the activity level is increased every three minutes. The response of the blood pressure and the heart rate is then monitored in order to reach the results of the test. Certain patients may even be given intravenous medications such as adenosine and dipyridamole in order to stimulate the physical activity level further.
In the case of nuclear cardiac stress testing Thallium and Cardiolyte tracers are used in order to increase the accuracy of the test. Once the patient has reached his/her optimum stress level, a small amount of tracer is injected. The patient is then made to lie down while a camera follows the pattern of the tracer. These tests help demonstrate if there is a blockage in the heart arteries and if this blockage is actually affecting the flow of blood into the heart during strenuous activity. In case of a blockage the defect shows up as lowered tracer activity in the given area.
The difference between the normal stress test and the nuclear one is the injection of the dye that traces the pattern of the flow of blood.
In most cases a physician will be present during these tests and the patient is periodically asked how tired he or she is feeling. Those who suffer from unexplained chest pains, angina and other similar heart related problems are often prescribed this test.
Most of the time, the procedure is completely painless while there are patients who do sometime complain of slight dizziness, nausea and even a feeling of tiredness. During the insertion of the tracer, one may feel a cold sensation travel up the arm too but most of these sensations die down within minutes after the test is over.
The benefits of these tests are several. The information attained here is not replicated by any other test and yield very precise and useful data. As opposed to exploratory surgery, these tests are much less expensive and also involve a much lower risk towards the patient. What is better is that there is no recovery time involved in the case of these cardiac tests.
Certain risks like an allergic reaction to the medication etc are present here but these are quite minor as opposed to the benefits of these tests. Women who do undergo a cardiac stress test must inform their physician if they are pregnant or breast feeding.