Stress tests are designed to determine your cardiac health, diagnosing if there is any significant blockage in your coronary arteries. During an EKG stress test, you are attached to an electrocardiogram machine with electrodes and asked to walk on a treadmill until you reach a pre-determined heart rate while a physician monitors for EKG changes.
If you cannot walk very well or long enough to perform a traditional stress test, our physicians at Hunt Regional can perform a Dobutamine Stress EKG. During this procedure, Dobutamine is infused through a catheter to increase your heart rate and the strength of your heart’s contractions, mimicking the heart’s behavior during exercise while a physician monitors your EKG.
There are a variety of factors that can put you at risk for cardiac problems, some of which can be changed. These risk factors include:
- Smoking tobacco
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Physical inactivity
- Excess body fat
The presence of more than one of these factors greatly increases your risk for cardiac problems. Additionally, stress, alcohol consumption and diet are other controllable factors that can raise your chances of experiencing heart-related issues.
If you’re having problems relating to your heart and function of the surrounding blood vessels, your general physician may see some of the symptoms, but then it’s time to see a cardiologist to ensure the best path of treatment to either respond to heart conditions or to prevent further damage. You could equate it to seeing an orthopedic specialist if you damage your knee, rather than having your GP treat it. When it comes to something as critical to your health as your cardiovascular system, training and specialization is important to the best outcomes.
Your cardiologist can call for a variety of tests for further evidence that your symptoms are tied to a cardiovascular problem. These are the main tests usually used, but there could be others, as well.
- Echocardiogram — This test uses ultrasound waves to create a picture of the heart, allowing your cardiologist to check the structure and function.
- Ambulatory ECG — This usually involves the wearing of a Holter monitor, which records your heart’s activity during a 24-hour period. This is used to check for arrhythmias, abnormal heart rhythms.
- Exercise stress test — This test has the patient walk or run on a treadmill while attached to various monitors. This tells your cardiologist how well your heart is able to handle work.
- Cardiac catheterization — This is an invasive test where a catheter is inserted into a large blood vessel and is then moved into the heart. There instruments placed at the tip can measure blood pressure in each heart chamber and in the surrounding blood vessels, can view the interior of the blood vessels, or even remove a tissue sample.
Chest pain with exertion that resolves with rest is the first sign of coronary disease in many cases. Breathing difficulties with exertion may be an indicator of heart or lung disease. A productive cough is a sign of emphysema or chronic bronchitis but is not specific. Development of any of the above symptoms should prompt you to seek help from your primary care physician.
When the heart experiences a cardiac rhythm disturbance, an electrophysiology study (EPS) can be done to locate the source of the irregularity. An EPS is done in an EP lab by a specialist. You will receive an IV and a sedative, then the doctor will insert a catheter that is guided through the blood vessels to the heart chambers. The catheters are attached to a device that measures the electrical impulses inside your heart.