Stress test, a method of diagnostic testing, takes place in two parts and is used to monitor how your heart works when you indulge in physical activities. Since the heart pumps harder and faster during exercise, the exercise stress test helps determine if your heart has blood flow issues. You may have to jog on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike for the assessment. In case someone cannot exercise, the technician or doctor might go for medications that mimic the effects of the exercise. That being said, how long does a stress test take? Continue reading to find out.
Stress Test: How Long Does It Take?
A basic exercise stress test takes 10 to 15 minutes for the exercise portion. The additional time for getting ready for the test and the recovery after the test might require you to be in the lab for up to 3 hours.
What Happens in a Stress Test?
Before the test begins, your doctor might tell you to fast. In simple words, you’ll be told not to eat food. Moreover, taking beta blockers for 12 to 18 hours is not recommended either, as they can impact heart rate. Other than this, avoid caffeine and wear exercise-friendly shoes.
During the test, this is what happens:
The Initial Set of Pictures
Your doctor or technician will begin by starting an IV line in your arm to inject the medication. Once the medication begins to circulate, they’ll take the first test of pictures of your heart prior to the heart stress test. The pictures will be taken while you lie under a nuclear image scanner. The medication works to highlight the regions in your heart that are using up oxygen. If the images may hint at major issues, you’re likely to be referred to a cardiologist straight away.
The Exercise Stress Test
After the pictures have been taken, the stress portion of the test begins. You’ll be asked to walk on a treadmill. The speed or resistance of the exercise machine will increase gradually. The session will be over when your target heart rate is reached. Moreover, you may stop if you cannot continue any longer due to symptoms like chest pain, change in blood pressure, etc.
Your technician will inject you with the medication again after you reach your target heart rate. However, you’ll have to stay on the treadmill for the medication to circulate. There is another type of stress test that injects chemicals to stress your heart, given that your condition warrants it.
The doctor will wait for the heart rate to return to the baseline; till then, they’ll monitor you.
The Second Set of Pictures
After you’re done with the exercise, the doctor will instruct you to eat a meal and come back a couple of hours later. The second set of pictures of your heart will be taken upon your return. The doctor will read and examine the images. Usually, they’ll notify you of the results within 24 hours.