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About This Procedure

Nuclear cardiology and stress testing at the Massachusetts General Hospital Corrigan Minehan Heart Center is a joint effort between the cardiology and radiology departments and provides various types of heart stress tests that help to identify and diagnose heart disease. Cardiologists use the cardiac stress test for different reasons depending on a patient’s condition. Our team may recommend a cardiac stress test to:

  • Evaluate the cause of chest pain
  • Measure the strength of your heart after a heart attack or surgery
  • Establish a baseline for patients who have cardiac risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or a family history of coronary artery disease
  • Determine how well your heart tolerates exercise and activity Nuclear cardiology nurses are carefully trained to conduct stress testing as well as respond to any issues surrounding the test.

Cardiac nurses perform a focused interview with the patient as well as assess the appropriateness of the stress test. In addition, nurses provide a thorough explanation of the test to be performed and answer any patient questions.

During the study, nurses carefully monitor the patient’s responses to the test, including blood pressure, heart rate and the electrocardiogram. After the test, cardiac nurses document the study findings, and the study is finalized by a cardiologist who specializes in stress testing.

Details About the Test

An exercise stress test is also called a stress electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) or a treadmill test. The goal of the stress test is to raise your heart rate to determine if blood flow is reduced in the arteries that supply blood to your heart. Your heart rate is raised through exercise, such as walking on a treadmill.

Preparation for the Test

  • When your test is scheduled, it is important to ask your referring physician if you should take any of your medications before the test.
  • You should not eat for three hours before your test.
  • Drinking water is ok.
  • Because caffeine could interfere with the test, please do not drink coffee, tea, soda (including decaffeinated) or eat chocolate for 12 hours before your test.
  • We recommend that you wear walking shoes and a comfortable two-piece outfit.

During the Test

Small pads called electrodes are placed on your upper body to monitor your heart rate. After learning how to use the treadmill, you will exercise for several minutes. At first the exercise is at an easy pace, but it slowly gets more difficult. Your heartbeat and blood pressure are monitored during and after the test. Total test time is approximately 45 minutes.

After the Test

As soon as the test is over, you may eat and return to your normal routine. Ask your doctor about returning to medications you were told to skip before the test.