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 difficult for you to exercise.
- Are or might be pregnant.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding
the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will
mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the
medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).
Your doctor may recommend how you
should eat before the test. For example, your doctor may suggest you only eat a
light breakfast before your test.
An exercise EKG may be dangerous and should not be done in some situations. Be sure to tell your doctor if you:
- Think you are having a heart
- Are having chest pain that is not relieved with rest (unstable angina).
- Have high blood pressure
that is not controlled with medicine.
- Have untreated,
life-threatening irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias).
- Have severe
narrowing of one of your heart valves (aortic valve stenosis).
- Have an infection in your heart muscle
- Have a severe decrease in the amount of red blood
- Have a stretched and bulging
section in the wall of the large artery that carries blood from the heart
(aortic aneurysm) or in one of the chambers of the
heart (ventricular aneurysm).
- Have severe lung disease.
Remove all jewelry from your neck, arms, and wrists. Wear
flat, comfortable shoes (no bedroom slippers) and loose, lightweight shorts or
sweat pants. Men are usually bare-chested during the test. Women often wear a
bra, T-shirt, or hospital gown. Avoid wearing any restrictive clothing other
than a bra.
You may want to stretch your arm and leg muscles
before beginning an exercise EKG.
How It Is Done
An exercise electrocardiogram (EKG or
ECG) is usually done in a doctor's office, clinic, or hospital lab by a health
professional or doctor. The test results are evaluated by an
family medicine doctor, or
Before the test
- Areas on your arms, legs, and chest where
small metal discs (electrodes) will be placed are cleaned and may be shaved to
provide a clean, smooth surface to attach the discs. A special EKG paste or
small pads soaked in alcohol may be placed between the discs and your skin to
improve conduction of the electrical impulses, but in many cases disposable
discs are used that do not require paste or alcohol.
- The electrodes
are hooked to a machine that traces your heart activity onto a piece of paper.
Your chest may be loosely wrapped with an elastic band to keep the electrodes
from falling off during exercise. A blood pressure cuff will be wrapped around
your upper arm so that your blood pressure can be checked every few minutes
during the test.
During the test