An exercise electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG)
is a test that checks for changes in your heart while you exercise. Sometimes
EKG abnormalities can be seen only during exercise or while symptoms are
present. This test is sometimes called a "stress test" or a "treadmill test."
During an exercise EKG, you may either walk on a motor-driven treadmill or
pedal a stationary bicycle.
heart is a muscular pump made up of
four chambers . The two upper chambers are called atria, and the two lower
chambers are called ventricles. A natural electrical system causes the heart
muscle to contract and pump blood through the heart to the lungs and the rest
of the body.
An exercise EKG translates the
heart's electrical activity into line tracings on paper. The spikes and dips in
the line tracings are called waves.
A resting EKG is always done
before an exercise EKG test, and results of the resting EKG are compared to the
results of the exercise EKG. A resting EKG may also show a heart problem that
would make an exercise EKG unsafe.
Why It Is Done
electrocardiogram is done to:
- Help find the cause of unexplained chest
- Help decide on the best treatment for a person with angina.
- See how well people who
have had a
heart attack or heart surgery are able to tolerate
- Help find the cause of symptoms that occur during
exercise or activity, such as dizziness, fainting, or rapid, irregular
- Check for a blockage or
narrowing of an artery after a medical procedure, such as
coronary artery bypass surgery, especially if the
person has chest pain or other symptoms.
- See how well medicine or
other treatment for chest pain or an irregular heartbeat is
- Help you make decisions about starting an exercise program
if you have been inactive for a number of years and have an increased chance of
having heart disease.
Exercise electrocardiograms are not recommended if you're healthy and have no symptoms of heart disease.1
How To Prepare
Tell your doctor if you:
- Are taking any medicines, including a medicine
for an erection problem (such as Viagra). You may need to take nitroglycerin
during this test, which can cause a serious reaction if you have taken a
medicine for an erection problem within the previous 48 hours. Ask your doctor
whether you need to stop taking any of your other medicines before the
- Are allergic to any medicines, such as those used to numb the
- Have had bleeding problems
or take blood-thinners, such as aspirin or warfarin (such as
- Have joint problems in your hips or legs that may make
it hard for you to exercise.
- Are or might be pregnant.