UT Southwestern Medical Center provides comprehensive stress testing services, including electrocardiograms (ECGs), echocardiograms, and nuclear medicine procedures. Our heart specialists use these tests to help determine the health of your heart, including the strength of the heart muscle and blood pumping efficiency. Nuclear medicine stress tests supply additional information about the heart and coronary arteries.
An electrocardiogram stress test uses small adhesive electrode patches that a specialist places on your chest and connects to an ECG recording device, which measures heart function during exercise. Your blood pressure is recorded before, during, and after the stress test. During the test, you will be asked to slowly and gradually increase the pace of your walking or pedaling until it becomes uncomfortable to continue.
An echocardiogram stress test also involves using small adhesive patches placed on the chest and connected to an ECG device. In addition to the information obtained by the ECG device, a sonographer will take ultrasound pictures of the heart before and after exercising. These ultrasound pictures examine how the heart responds to exercise. If you’re unable to exercise, you may receive an intravenous line to provide a drug that mimics the effects of exercise, allowing an ultrasound examiner to use a hand-held device to record echo images as the heart rate increases.
A nuclear medicine stress test involves using a treadmill or stationary bicycle to reach a maximum level of exercise, and then a specialist injects a small amount of radioactive substance into the bloodstream. Images of your heart are taken immediately after the exercise test to show blood flow during a stress test condition.
Two to three hours later, another series of images is taken to reveal blood flow during a resting condition. The test delivers detailed images that can be used to determine the amount of coronary artery blockage, as well as the effectiveness of any previous treatments performed to improve coronary artery blood flow.
During all stress testing procedures, laboratory personnel constantly monitor your condition and request feedback on any shortness of breath, discomfort, or pain experienced.
After the test, a cardiology specialist will interpret the results of the examination and thoroughly discuss what the test reveals about your heart condition.