What is it?

The stress test is a cycling test and performed on a home trainer. In some cases, it is performed under the supervision of a cardiologist:

  • when there is pain in the chest area
  • in order to evaluate any arrhythmias
  • to investigate the effectiveness of a treatment

During the procedure, the physician looks at:

  • your heart's adaptations to a physical stress (e.g situation with increased need for oxygen)
  • any potential abnormalities in the electrocardiogram that could indicate a lack of oxygen in the heart muscle when it is stressed

What is the process?

Preparation

No specific preparations are required. Make sure you wear comfortable clothes and shoes that allow for easy movement.

Procedure

The examination starts with a resting electrocardiogram (ECG). Electrodes connected to cables are placed on to your body. After the resting ECG, we will monitor you heart in the same say while you cycle on a home trainer. The bicycle resistance is gradually raised until you reach your maximum heart rate. If you cannot cycle any longer, please notify your cardiologist or nurse. The duration of the test is partially dependent on your age and condition.

Aftercare

No specific aftercare is required after this test.

What are the risks?

The cycling test is carried out under continuous blood monitoring and an electrocardiogram. Serious complications are extremely rare. Possible complaints that may occur during the cycling test are:

  • Chest pain (a result of lack of oxygen in the heart muscle due to a constriction of the coronary artery). In this case, the test is usually stopped and the symptoms disappear by themselves. If the symptoms persist, your physician can give you medication to alleviate them.
  • Sometimes, heart rhythm disturbances can occur that usually disappear by themselves. Equipment and medication to treat any potential heart rhythm disturbances are always available.

Results

If the test is negative, you will probably be able to withstand the stress well. You will not have any symptoms and no changes will be seen on your ECG while you are stressed. The chance that you have a constriction in a coronary artery is small.

If you do have symptoms while your heart is under stress, or if the results are abnormal after the cycling test, the cardiologist will discuss these with you. Additional testing is then often recommended in order to either detect or rule out heart problems.

Centres and specialist areas

Cardiac surgery
Cardiology

Latest publication date: 05/02/2021
Supervising author: Dr Provenier Frank