Assessment Exercise Test

An assessment exercise test is meant for evaluation of the heart and the vascular system when the patient is exercising. These tests are crucially important in the detection of certain cardiac diseases that can easily be missed if the physical examination and ECG of the patient are performed when the patient is at rest. In such instances, any abnormalities in cardiac functioning can only be detected only if the heart is forced to perform at greater workloads.

An ECG exercise test also known as a cardiac exercise test, serves to answer two important questions: firstly, is there a cardiac disease that is apparent only when the heart is under stress from exercise? And secondly, if there is such a disease, is it really severe?

This is how ECG exercise test tolerance is determined. The doctor attaches the patient to an ECG machine, and places a blood pressure cuff on one arm. First a baseline ECG is taken. Then the patient starts performing some low level exercise. This can be either pedaling a stationary bicycle, or walking on a treadmill. The level or intensity of exercise is increased every three minutes. The blood pressure, the pulse and ECG are taken at each stage, and other symptoms recorded.

If it is a "maximal" stress test, the exercise intensity is increased slowly till such time when the patient stops due to fatigue, or experiences symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain, lightheadedness etc. or when the ECG points to a cardiac problem. These tests are used mainly for diagnosis of coronary artery disease. On the other hand, "submaximal" stress tests are used in patients who already have coronary artery disease, and help to measure the level of exercise that the patient can perform safely. These tests continue only up to a pre-determined level of exercise.

After the assessment exercise test the doctor monitors the patient till all symptoms go away, and the baseline ECG, pulse and blood pressure are attained.