Let’s be honest, a cardiac stress test can be just that – stressful! So how do physicians know when it’s appropriate to use this as a way to evaluate how well a patient’s heart is handling its workload? Well, it’s actually by considering a few different factors. Is the patient healthy enough to walk on a treadmill or bike on an ergometer? What if the patient presents healthy, yet there is a family history of heart disease? After evaluating those parameters, the question then becomes which type of stress test [see previous blog] should the patient actually undergo? The good news - there may now be further guidance for physicians when it comes to making this decision, specifically for males who are at risk.
According to the results of research studies recently completed in the US, a standard ETT (exercise treadmill test) can help predict which men may have a moderate to high risk of heart disease. It is how the patient performs during the test and how the patient’s heart rhythm presents during the test that is critical.
“[A cardiac stress test can help] predict heart attacks or other serious heart disease even in men without symptoms [prior to testing].”
Additionally, a study featured in an edition of Circulation shows evidence that an ETT may be used to judge who might receive an implantable defibrillator (ICD).
“Every year 300,000 to 400,000 people in the US die suddenly when the heart’s rhythm is suddenly disrupted. But there is controversy over how to decide who needs defibrillators implanted to prevent this [abnormal rhythm].”
A change in the patient’s heart rhythm (ST-segment), or if target heart rate is not reached during the stress test, research shows that this may more than double a patient’s risk of developing coronary events during the next 10 years. What does that mean? Basically, cardiac stress tests are an important resource in helping physicians predict possible cardiac events. And if a 30-minute stress test can help save your life, wouldn’t you have one?