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Treadmill Stress Test at UPMC in Central Pa.

A treadmill stress test is given while a patient walks on a treadmill and is used to perform and electrocardiogram (EKG) of the heart during exercise.

How does a treadmill stress test work?

You may have coronary artery blockages and not even know it because you have minimal symptoms and/or an unremarkable or unchanged EKG while at rest. However, when the heart is exposed to stress (like that of exercise) your symptoms will likely come to the surface. During exercise, healthy coronary arteries dilate or open up to supply more blood to the heart muscle. When the arteries are narrowed due to a blockage, they supply a reduced flow of blood. This reduced flow causes the involved muscle to "starve" during exercise, producing symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath, which should produce abnormalities on an EKG.

During a treadmill stress test, a motorized treadmill is typically used for exercise.

Why is the test performed?

Your doctor will likely order a treadmill stress test for several reasons:

  • You have symptoms or signs of coronary artery disease
  • You have significant risk factors for coronary artery disease
  • You have unexplained fatigue and shortness of breath
  • To evaluate blood pressure response to exercise if you have borderline hypertension
  • To look for exercise-induced serious irregular heartbeats.

How is a treadmill stress test performed?

  • Your heart rate and blood pressure will be recorded prior to starting. The technician then attaches electrodes to your chest, shoulders and hips and then to the EKG portion of the stress test machine.
  • You’ll start with a relatively slow "warm-up" on the treadmill, increasing speed and incline during every three minute stage. Your blood pressure will be recorded during the second minute of each stage, and it may be recorded more frequently if the readings are too high or too low.
  • When you have achieved your target heart rate (85% of the maximal heart rate predicted for your age) the test can be stopped, or if you’re doing extremely well at peak exercise, the test may be continued further. Your doctor will stop the test prior to achievement of the target heart rate if you develop significant chest discomfort, shortness of breath, dizziness, or if the EKG shows alarming changes or serious irregular heartbeats.

How to Prepare

Ask your doctor if you should take any of your routine medicines the day of the test (especially if you are taking heart medication) as some medicines may interfere with test results. Do not eat or drink for at least three hours before the test and be sure to wear loose, comfortable clothing.

What do the results mean?

A normal result means that blood flow through the coronary arteries is normal. Abnormal results may call for further tests such as Stress Echocardiography or a Nuclear Stress Test to confirm coronary artery disease. Treatment may include angioplasty or stent placement, changes to your heart medication, or even bypass surgery depending on the severity of your condition.

Need more information?

Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery Practices
Cumberland/Dauphin/Franklin/Perry Counties: 717-731-0101
Pediatric : 717-761-0200
Hanover: 717-637-1738
York: 717-849-5576
Lancaster/Lititz: 717-299-5000
Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery: 717-231-8555

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UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
Located at UPMC Outpatient Center
Formerly known as Lebanon Valley Advanced Care Center
1251 East Main Street
Suite 3
Annville, PA 17003

Adult Cardiology: 717-731-0101
Pediatric Cardiology: 717-761-0200

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
360 Alexander Spring Road
Carlisle, PA 17013

Adult Cardiology: 717-243-6557
Pediatric Cardiology: 717-761-0200
Fax: 717-243-0102 

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
900 Century Drive
Suite 100
Mechanicsburg, PA 17055

Phone: 717-591-3660 or 800-248-0257
Fax: 717-591-3661

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
Located at Medical Professional Center of Newport
300 Bretz Court
Newport, PA 17074

Phone: 717-567-7246 or 800-248-0257
Fax: 717-567-2621 

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
2808 Old Post Road
Harrisburg, PA 17110

Adult Cardiology: 717-920-4400
Pediatric Cardiology: 717-761-0200
Fax: 717-920-4401

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
12 Saint Paul Drive
Suite 205
Chambersburg, PA 17201

Adult Cardiology: 717-217-6881
Pediatric Cardiology: 717-761-0200
Fax: 717-217-6889

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
Located at Commerce Park Professional Center
20 Expedition Trail
Suite 203
Gettysburg, PA 17325

Phone: 717-637-1738
Fax: 717-646-7430

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
Located at UPMC Outpatient Center
2201 Brunswick Drive
Hanover, PA 17331

Phone: 717-637-1738
Fax: 717-646-7430 

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
Located at Medical Office Building
310 Stock Street
Suite 3
Hanover, PA 17331

Phone: 717-637-1738
Fax: 717-646-7430 

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
1555 Highlands Drive
Suite 100
Lititz, PA 17543

Phone: 717-299-5000
Fax: 717-431-1205 

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute (formerly Cardiac Consultants)
1697 Crown Avenue
Suite 100
Lancaster, PA 17601

Phone: 717-299-5000
Fax: 717-431-1205

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