Chemical Stress Test (When a treadmill stress test is too much)

Posted by: Tampa Cardio

On: December 11, 2015

While treadmill stress tests are the industry standard because of the effect on blood pressure and heart rate, giving the clinicians a window into the persons exercise tolerance, not all patients are candidates. With a physical treadmill stress test there are no side effects to contend with. Physical limitations like back or joint issues, arthritis, unsteady gait, previous stroke, shortness of breath, dizziness, pace maker or extreme fatigue make a treadmill stress test unsafe.

If the patient isn’t suited for a treadmill stress test, the alternative is to perform a chemical stress test.

What is a chemical stress test?

A chemical (drug) stress test combines an intravenous medication with an imaging technique (isotope imaging or echocardiography) to perform the evaluation. The medication takes the place of cardiovascular exercise normally done on a treadmill to either increase the hearts workload or to cause the coronary arteries to dilate. Blocked arteries will show reduced blood flow as compared to normal arteries.

This reduced blood flow may decrease the movement of the affected wall (as seen by echocardiogram), or show up as less bright on a nuclear scan. Medications commonly used in pharmacologic stress testing include Regadenoson(Lexiscan) and dobutamine.

Are there side effects?

Generally no, however, if side effects appear, they are usually minor:

Irregular heart beats

Unrelieved chest pain


Flushed feeling


Are chemical stress tests reliable?

This method of testing is able to accurately diagnose coronary heart disease in approximately 90% of the patients tested. There are variables which make it less reliable including excess weight, large breasts in women, and patients who have a left bundle branch block on their EKG may also have a false abnormal test.

Results may take a few days to come back and further testing may be required.

The best recommendation is to proactively take care of your health. Contact the Tampa Cardiovascular Associates for an appointment and recommendations (813) 975-2800.

Posted by: Tampa Cardio

On: 11/12/2015

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