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"What can my husband expect to undergo during a cardiac stress test?"


My husband is going through a cardiac stress test next week, and I am curious as to what he is going to experience. I know that the process is often done with exercise, but the doctor also mentioned something about drug stimulation. I would like to know more about the differences between the two tests as well as what the advantages and disadvantages of each test might be.


You have asked a very good question and the best physician for you to discuss stress test with is a cardiologist. All stress tests are designed to increase blood flow to the heart in attempts to find areas of reduced flow in the coronary arteries. These areas are caused by blockages in the coronary arteries collectively known as atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease.

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Stress tests broadly come in two categories. The first, as you mentioned is the test that involves exercise. People will be placed on a treadmill and will be asked to walk at faster and faster speeds at higher and higher inclines until they are no longer able to continue. Blood pressure and electrocardiograms are both collected while exercising. Some exercise stress tests end there, and others involve getting pictures of the heart with an ultrasound or a nuclear tracer. If someone is unable to exercise, then we can give a drug that simulates exercise by increasing heart muscle blood flow. The same types of studies can be done as with the exercise test. The pharmacologic test is done in people who are unable to exercise for whatever reason. The exercise test is preferred because it gives us more data to work with in terms of the overall cardiovascular health. Please discuss this with a cardiologist.

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