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Preparing for a Stress Test

Preparing for a Stress Test

  • Do not eat or drink caffeine products (chocolate, soda, tea, coffee or Excedrin®) for 24 hours before the exam. Please note: Decaffeinated products contain caffeine.
  • Consult your physician about going off beta-blockers for 48 hours and calcium channel blockers 24 hours before your exam.
  • Do not eat or drink for three hours before your appointment. Drinking water is okay.
  • If you are unable to exercise on the treadmill, a medication will be administered to stress your heart. If you are undergoing this type of exam, you may take all your heart and blood pressure medications as instructed by your physician.
  • If you have diabetes, please speak to your physician prior to this exam to receive special instructions you may need regarding your medications.
  • For SPECT exams, wear comfortable clothes and rubber-soled shoes or sneakers for the treadmill portion of this exam.
  • Please bring all your medications or a list of them with doses to your appointment.

During the Test

Exercise Stress Test

  • During the test, you will be connected to an electrocardiogram and a blood pressure cuff while you exercise. A healthy person's electrocardiogram has a certain pattern. If the pattern of yours is different, doctors can tell if there is a problem with your heart.
  • Your blood pressure, pulse and heart's electrical activity are recorded before you begin exercising. During the test, you will be asked to walk on a treadmill or to ride a recumbent bike. Every couple of minutes, your doctor or the technician will increase the speed and slope of the treadmill (or the resistance on the bike). Your doctor or a technician will look for changes in the electrocardiogram patterns and blood pressure levels. These indicate whether your heart is getting enough oxygen.
  • Be sure to tell your doctor and the technician how you are feeling during the test. It is important to report any symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, difficulty breathing, chest pain, jaw or back discomfort, lightheadedness or dizziness, or physical inability to continue the test. At the end of the test, you may be asked to lie down or sit quietly.

Nuclear Stress Test

  • The approximate visit time for SPECT is 3-4 hours and for PET it is 2-3 hours.
  • During the test, you will receive two injections of a small amount of radioactive material. The level of radioactivity used is extremely low and has no side effects.
  • To minimize the number of injections you receive, an intravenous line (IV) will be placed in your arm prior to your first injection (thallium) and will be re-used later for your second injection (Cardiolite).
  • Following your first injection, you will be placed under a gamma camera and pictures of your heart will be recorded. This camera does not produce any radiation. It will be placed close to your chest and pictures will be taken for approximately 30 minutes. This portion of the test is called the rest study.
  • Following your rest study, our trained staff will place EKG leads on your chest. The EKG will be used to constantly monitor your heart during your stress test.
  • Your heart will be stressed, either through exercise or through the use of medication. During the test, you will be constantly monitored by a Nurse Practitioner or a Physician.
  • The actual stress portion of the test takes about 10 to 15 minutes; however, the preparation takes longer (up to 30 minutes).
  • Before the end of the stress test, a second injection (Cardiolite) will be administered. This radiopharmaceutical is taken up by your heart muscle and can be visualized by the gamma camera in the same manner as the rest study.
  • The imaging portion of your stress study will take approximately 45 minutes.

What to Expect During a Stress Test

Normal responses during testing include feeling tired, shortness of breath and sweating.

You should tell the nurse practitioner or physician if you feel any of these symptoms: chest, arm or jaw discomfort, severe shortness of breath, extreme tiredness, dizziness, lightheadedness, leg cramps or soreness. The test will be changed or stopped if it is unsafe for you to continue.

After the Test

When the test is over, you may eat or drink and return to your normal routine. You may also resume all your medications.

Your films will be reviewed by our cardiologists, and results will be sent to your physician. Your physician will discuss these results with you and explain how the results relate to your health.