Understanding Pharmacologic Stress Tests

Stress tests can help determine how your heart functions under stress by measuring your heart rate while you walk or run on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike. If your ability to exercise is below normal standards for your age, your heart may not be getting an adequate supply of oxygen-rich blood. That said, other factors like lung disease, poor fitness, or anemia can also reduce the length of time you're able to exercise.

Pharmacologic stress testing is generally utilized when the patient is unable to exercise because of debilitating conditions in various forms. These include the following general indications:

  • Patients with conditions such as arthritis, peripheral vascular disease, functional impairment due to injury, and other orthopedic problems.
  • Other cases, including patients taking beta-blockers or other drugs that decrease heart rate that would inhibit the ability to achieve an adequate heart response to exercise

The most common side effects that occurred in clinical trials of pharmacologic agents were shortness of breath, headache, flushing, chest discomfort or chest pain, dizziness, nausea, abdominal discomfort, a metallic taste in the mouth, and feeling hot.

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