Can You Have A Stress Test If You Can't Walk?

When you think of a stress test, you probably picture someone running on a treadmill, right? If you're unable to walk, then, you may assume a stress test is just not something you can complete. But this is not the case. There are other ways to conduct a stress test, so you should still look into getting one if you're at risk for heart disease but are unable to walk. Generally, your cardiologist will do what's called a pharmacological stress test instead. Here's a closer look at what this procedure involves.

What is a pharmacological stress test?

A pharmacological stress test is similar to an exercise-based stress test, but instead of using exercise to raise your heart rate, your cardiologist gives you a medication to raise your heart rate. Usually, the medication given is one called dobutamine. As the medication takes effect, your cardiologist will measure how your heart responds, how your blood circulates, and then how you recover as your heart rate comes back down. This information will tell your cardiologist whether you have any blockages in the arteries of your heart, which will tell them whether you're at risk for a heart attack.

What happens when you have the stress test?

When you arrive at your cardiologist's office on the day of your stress test, you will typically be changed into a hospital gown and asked to lie down on a hospital bed. An IV will be put into your arm, and your doctor will assess your vital signs to ensure you're healthy enough to undergo the test.

If you are deemed healthy enough, your doctor will then place electrodes at various locations on your chest. They may also connect some lead wires to your wrists and ankles. With the electrodes and lead wires in place, the medication will be pumped into your IV. For about a half-hour, you'll just lie flat as your doctor conducts an EKG and takes images of your heart. They'll continue monitoring your heart function as you "come down" from the medication, which takes another 15 minutes or so.

Why is a pharmacological stress test so important?

This test is usually administered because you are thought to be at risk for heart disease. It allows your doctor to find out early on if you have heart disease so that they can recommend measures like bypass surgery, cholesterol-lowering medications, or a modified diet to ward off a heart attack rather than just waiting for one to happen.

If you are not able to walk, that does not mean you can't have a stress test. When done pharmacologically, all a stress test requires is that you lie back in bed and let the doctor assess your heart as medications are administered. The results can be very informative and life-saving. 

If you have more questions, contact a company like Alpert Zales & Castro Pediatric Cardiology.