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Treadmill Stress Test

This noninvasive test is also referred to as a standard or regular stress test or exercise electrocardiogram. These exercise stress tests are typically conducted by having patients walk on a treadmill while monitoring their electrocardiogram (EKG).

This records the electrical activity of your heart at rest and under stress (exercise). It also evaluates blood flow to the arteries of the heart to help determine if you have heart disease or to diagnose a heart-related cause of symptoms, such as shortness of breath or chest or upper back pain.

Test procedure

  1. An exercise technician will place electrodes (small adhesive patches) on your chest, wrists and ankles. Lead wires will then be connected to the electrodes.
  2. You will lie down on your back for a few minutes while electrocardiograms (EKG) and a blood pressure are obtained.
  3. You will have an additional EKG and blood pressure measurement taken while standing. These initial steps are taken to ensure there are no significant abnormalities that would prevent your test from being done.
  4. You will be asked to walk on a treadmill for approximately 5 to 15 minutes. The test begins slowly and increases gradually in speed and incline every two to three minutes. During this time, your heart rate, blood pressure and EKG will be monitored.
  5. Your responsibility is to exercise to the best of your ability (it is not an absolute maximum effort but should be a level higher than you would typically perform at home) and to inform the test supervisor of any developing symptoms (leg pain, chest pain, dizziness, lightheadedness, shortness of breath).
  6. The exercise portion will end once you have attained a target heart rate (pre-determined by age) unless the EKG shows signs of adverse effects of the exercise on your heart, if your blood pressure becomes too high or if you develop significant symptoms beforehand.
  7. A minimum six-minute recovery period is then done as a cool-down with continued heart rate, blood pressure and EKG monitoring. As soon as these measurements are close to your initial or resting values, you will be disconnected from the monitor.
  8. The exercise technician will give you preliminary results.
  9. A cardiologist will dictate the formal interpretation for your follow-up visit or for forwarding to your referring physician.

Allow approximately 45 to 60 minutes for the procedure, including preparation and the exercise and recovery periods.