What Is A Chemical Stress Test?

A chemical stress test is done to check on your heart and how well it works. The main point of this test is to highlight any flaws in your heart so it can be corrected before something serious, like a stroke or heart attack happens. Generally a traditional stress test is done on a treadmill, but if your doctor feels that a traditional stress test is unsafe then a chemical stress test is ordered.

Chemical Stress Test Versus Traditional Stress Test

A traditional stress test is preferred over a chemical stress test, but there are several reasons why a chemical stress test would be ordered instead of a traditional stress test. Issues such as back problems, dizziness, arthritis, or just exercise intolerance will make doing a traditional stress test difficult or even dangerous.

How it's Done

In order to see how the heart reacts to stress, it is first viewed under normal circumstances and the results are recorded at a heart clinic. For a chemical stress test, medication is injected into the patient intravenously to increase the workload of the heart and compared to the normal test. The heart is usually viewed using one of these three different methods: an echocardiogram, nuclear imaging, or MRI.

Why it's Done

There are several reasons why a stress test is ordered and here a few of those reasons.

  • Creating an exercise program: If you have a history of heart problems, such as a weak heart, then your doctor may order a stress test to see how hard you can safely push your heart in order to strengthen it.
  • Identify arrhythmias: These cause your heart to beat irregularly such as too fast or too slow.
  • Deciding Treatment of Heart Issues: The chemical stress test can assist your doctor in treatment decisions, either to see how current treatment is progressing, or to help them decide new treatments. It is also helpful for deciding if you need heart surgery or a heart transplant.

Risks of a Chemical Stress Test

The risks of this type of test would be the same risks you would have if you are exercising and your heart is not in good shape. The difference is that you will be in the presence of medical personnel who will be ready to help if something goes wrong. Some of these risks are arrhythmia, shortness of breath, chest pain, and in rare cases heart attack.

If your doctor decides you are not healthy for a regular stress test and you need a chemical stress test, you shouldn't worry as the risks are fairly similar for either test. These risks are worth it for the questions that your doctor needs answered in order to get your heart healthy again.


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