Exercise test

Why is it performed?

The exercise stress test or exercise ECG is most commonly used to investigate chest pain.  It involves exercising, usually on a treadmill at a progressively increasing speed and incline, aiming to raise the heart rate to a particular level and workload. 

Advantages and disadvantages

This test has the advantage of not using radiation. Although it cannot definitively confirm or exclude the presence of coronary artery disease, a normal test makes the presence of significant narrowing of the coronary arteries very unlikely.

What do I need to do before the test?

Prior to the test you will usually be required to stop any drugs that slow the heart rhythm for at least 24 hours.  This includes beta-blockers and some calcium-channel blockers.

What does the test involve?

The test requires the patient to exercise with an increasing speed and incline to a set workload (usually about 9-10 minutes although this varies). The patient's cardiovascular signs and heart rhythm are monitored during the test.  If there are features suggestive of underlying coronary artery disease a further test such as an invasive coronary angiogram may be subsequently arranged. If you think that it is unlikely that you will be able to do this test it is important that you tell you Doctor, who may arrange another form of investigation.