What is a stress test? The purpose of a stress test is to determine blood flow to the heart muscle when the heart is under stress (exercise) and at rest. The test helps your physician diagnose coronary artery disease. This is a condition where the blood vessels that give oxygen-rich blood to your heart muscle become narrow or blocked. The test can also show areas that have been damaged after a heart attack.
Special considerations before your procedure:
- Bring all medications in their original containers. This includes over-the-counter and herbal
- Ask your doctor if you need to stop taking any of your usual medications.
- If you have diabetes and take insulin, check with your doctor. You may need to change the amount of insulin you take before the test.
- Do not eat or drink four hours prior to the test.
- Do not drink or eat foods containing caffeine, avoid smoking or tobacco for 24 hours before the test.
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
- Do not wear oils or lotions before your test.
- It is a good idea to bring material to keep you occupied as you will have periods of waiting
throughout the test.
What should I expect when I arrive?
- You will check in with the receptionist at the Hanson Heart Center within Lakeland Medical Center in St. Joseph and be asked to fill out paperwork.
- Plan to be in the Heart Center for at least four hours.
- The Nuclear Medicine technician will start an IV (intravenous line) and inject a tracer substance called Cardiolite.
- You will wait in the waiting room for 30 minutes to let the Cardiolite circulate to your heart.
- Once your waiting period is over, you will be positioned under the nuclear camera to take pictures of your heart. You will lay on your back on a narrow table with your hand behind your head. It’s important for you to remain very still while the images are being taken. These pictures are referred to as your “resting pictures.”
- Following the completion of your scan, you will be taken to the stress room. The nurse will have you sign a consent and answer any questions.
- The nurse will review your health history and medications you’re currently taking.
- A nurse will clean small areas on your chest and place electrodes (small, flat sticky patches) on these areas. The electrodes are attached to an EKG monitor that records your heart’s electrical activity during the test.
- Before you start your stress test, the nurse will perform an EKG, to measure your heart rate and rhythm at rest. Your blood pressure will also be documented.
- You will be asked to perform an exercise test on a treadmill. You will start walking on a treadmill and every three minutes the treadmill will increase its incline and speed. A target heart rate will be calculated before you start.
- Once you reach your target heart rate you will be given an injection of Cardiolite through your IV. You will continue to walk for one minute to allow the Cardiolite to circulate.
- You can expect to exercise about 5 to 15 minutes. Please tell the nurse if you feel chest, arm or jaw pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, dizziness, lightheadedness or any other unusual symptoms.
- After your stress portion of the test is completed you will wait in the waiting room for 30 minutes to allow the Cardiolite to circulate to your heart.
- Once your waiting period is over, the Nuclear Medicine technician will position you under the nuclear camera again for your second set of pictures. These are referred to as your “stress pictures.”
- After your pictures are completed, the Nuclear Medicine technician will remove your IV and your stress test is completed.
- If you’re not able to tolerate walking on a treadmill, you will be given a medication to produce an effect on the heart similar to exercise.
- During this test you will be lying on a stretcher. The medication is given through your IV and then followed by an injection of Cardiolite. This portion of the test takes about 10 to 15 minutes.
- The medication given may make you feel warm and or flushed. You may experience chest pressure, headache, dizziness, nausea, or shortness of breath These symptoms are normal, but be sure you let the nurse know how you feel.
- After a review of the stress test and your medical history by a cardiologist, a report will be sent to the ordering doctor. The ordering doctor will then review the results and discuss them with you.