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Exercise Electrocardiogram

What Affects the Test

You may not be able to have the test or the results may not be accurate if:

  • The electrodes are not securely attached to the skin.
  • You are not able to exercise hard enough during the test.
  • You take certain medicines, such as digoxin, phenothiazines, and some antiarrhythmic medicines.
  • You have a low potassium level.
  • You smoke or eat a heavy meal before the test.

What To Think About

An exercise EKG is not always accurate. The test results from an exercise EKG are always evaluated along with other information, such as your symptoms and other risk factors.

  • Some people who have a normal exercise electrocardiogram test may still have heart disease, and some people with an abnormal test do not have heart disease. Because heart disease is rare in younger people who do not have symptoms, an exercise EKG may not be accurate. A falsely abnormal result (false-positive) may cause needless worry and further unnecessary testing.
  • The test is less accurate in young or middle-aged women who do not have typical symptoms of heart disease.
  • Sometimes doctors automatically schedule routine tests because they think that's what patients expect. But experts say routine heart tests can be a waste of time and money. For more information, see Heart Tests: When Do You Need Them?
  • Further tests, such as cardiac perfusion scanning, stress echocardiogram, or cardiac catheterization, may be needed to further evaluate an abnormal exercise EKG test result.

Other Places To Get Help


National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) (U.S.)
American Heart Association (AHA)

Related Information

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 13, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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