Exercise Electrocardiogram

The test you are about to have is known as an exercise electrocardiogram (ECG), exercise stress test or treadmill test. The test is performed either to determine whether or not you have angina or, if you suffer from angina, to determine how severe it is.

Electrodes will be stuck to your chest to record your heart tracing or ECG. You will then be asked to walk on the treadmill, which will begin at a slow walking pace and small incline. In automatic 3-minute stages, the treadmill will increase in speed and inclination to a normal walking pace and then a brisk walking pace. Your ECG will be monitored continuously and your blood pressure will be checked at intervals.

It is important that you inform the attending technician or doctor if you develop any symptoms so that these may be recorded. Typical symptoms include breathlessness, tiredness, and tired legs. However, you may experience discomfort in the chest, neck or arms or, less commonly, dizziness. It is important to state whether the symptoms you experience are typical of your usual symptoms and how severe they are.

You will be asked to continue exercising for as long as you possibly can. However, if at any time you feel that you cannot continue inform the technician or doctor and the treadmill will be stopped immediately. Occasionally, the technician or doctor may stop the test when you feel that you can continue. This will be because sufficient information has been obtained.

Individuals who suffer from angina commonly develop angina during the test. However, this will resolve during the rest period after the test. It seldom requires any treatment and necessitates admission to hospital only rarely. The risk of the test provoking a heart attack is very small, probably in the order of one chance in 5,000 (0.02%).

Occasionally, exercise may provoke palpitations or dizziness. Again, this usually settles with rest. It seldom requires any treatment and necessitates admission to hospital only rarely.

If you have any questions about the test, please do not hesitate to ask the technician or doctor who is supervising your test.

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