Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Handle A Chemical Stress Test

Most people are aware of the more traditional treadmill stress test, which is used to assess the condition of the heart muscle. Its purpose is to determine how well the heart will react under various levels of physical stress from standard walking to fast-paced uphill climbs. While the test is still used for those people who are in an adequate position to handle it, there is now an alternative method available for those who cannot. A chemical stress test can also assess the viability of the heart muscle under various levels of stress. However, rather than using actual physical activity to accomplish this, a medication is induced into the blood stream that will almost instantaneously push the arteries open to allow blood flow to move at maximum velocity and volume. However, because the test moves the body from a relaxed position to one of maximum stress within seconds, it can induce panic along with some difficult-to-handle symptoms.


Preparing for the Test

1. Inform your physician of your family history. Also be sure he is aware of any of heart disease, breathing disorders, or other major medical conditions prior to the test.

2. Determine if the test will be performed in the hospital or as an outpatient. If it is to be performed outpatient, arrange for someone to go with you to drive you home following the procedure. While most of the effects of the test don’t linger once it is complete, you may have a headache or be nauseous, making it difficult and unsafe to drive on your own.

3. Schedule at least 7 hours for the test if it is to be performed outpatient. In essence, the procedure could eat up an entire day. Therefore, it is best not to plan to work that day unless it is prior to the test.

4. Follow the doctor’s orders precisely for the 72-hour period before the test is to take place. You may be advised to suspend the ingestion of all or certain types of medication for up to 3 days prior to the test. You will also be cautioned not to eat or drink for at least 4 hours prior to the test’s scheduled time. Failure to adhere to the guidelines established by the physician may create problems and force the test to be rescheduled.

5. Dress simply for the trip to the clinic. You will be required to wear a hospital gown for the test and remove all other clothing that covers the torso area. EKG electrodes will be attached to the chest, arms and legs during the test. Therefore, make certain that those areas of the body can be easily accessed. Additionally, the physician must be able to access the chest quickly in the event that something goes wrong with the test.

During the Test

6. Make sure that an EKG (electrocardiogram) test is run prior to the stress test for comparison during and following the test.

7. Become familiar with the symptoms that commonly take place during the test so that they don’t catch you off guard or cause you to panic. These include, in the general order of severity, uncontrollable hot flashes, pounding headache, a feeling of the blood being on fire, nausea and sweating. Some patients may also throw up.

8. Remain calm. Breathe slowly, deliberately and deeply. Rapid, shallow breathing seems to elevate the discomfort felt during the test.Trying counting the seconds in your mind. This can help take your attention away from the test itself. Once you reach 360, the test should be complete, since it only takes between 5 and 6 minutes.

9. Expect a certain amount of side effects once the test is complete. These may include continued headache, nausea, fatigue, trouble catching a breath, sudden, irregular heartbeat, skipped beats, racing beats or flutters. It is even possible that the test may initiate a heart attack. While most patients generally feel nothing more than fatigue, it is best to be prepared for anything.

10. Remain at the clinic until you are officially released. The doctor may schedule additional tests, and she will certainly want to make certain no serious health problem has been caused by the procedure before letting you go home.

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