There are different types of “stress tests” that can be used to evaluate the heart. The simplest is an exercise test, which is performed on a treadmill or stationary bicycle for people with suspected or known heart disease. The test records heart rate and blood pressure. Sticky electrodes are attached to the chest, shoulder and hip and are connected to a machine that records heart rate and blood pressure while your child is exercising. An echocardiogram [link to section on Echocardiogram above] may also be performed during and immediately after exercising (stress echocardiogram). Some problems with the heart are not seen when the heart is at a calm, resting state. Exercise testing allows doctors to “work” the heart and evaluate it during times of activity and stress. This is a non-invasive test, meaning nothing is put into the body during the test. Since the purpose of the test is to have your child exercise, it is important to have your child dress appropriately, including comfortable clothes and shoes meant for activity.
Other types of “stress testing” include giving medications by vein while performing an echocardiogram or cardiac MRI to make the heart work harder. Sometimes abnormalities may be more easily identified if the heart is made to intentionally work harder.
Occasionally, cardiac nuclear perfusion testing is performed in children. In this test, a small amount of radioactive compound is injected by vein and pictures of the heart are taken to see how well blood is being provided to the heart itself. These kinds of tests are only ordered after a detailed evaluation by your child’s cardiologist.