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What is a Stress Test?

A stress test measures your heart’s performance while it’s working hard. Stress tests can be used to diagnose heart problems that may not show up when your body is at rest. There are four types:

  • Exercise Treadmill Stress Test: An electrocardiogram (EKG) looks at the heart’s electrical activity as you walk or run on a treadmill.
  • Echocardiogram Stress Test: Using ultrasound technology, an echocardiogram captures sound waves that are recorded as computer images.
  • Nuclear Stress Test: Using a small dose of a radioactive material (isotope) and images of the heart, the test determines if there is a blockage in the arteries of the heart.
  • Aerobic Exercise Capacity (VO2 Max) Study: A breathing mask will measure how much oxygen you inhale and exhale as you exercise on a treadmill or stationary bicycle. 

UR Medicine's Approach

UR Medicine Cardiac Care offers the most current equipment available for exercise stress tests. Our staff is highly trained in performing these tests and takes special care to help patients feel at ease.

  • A lab technician will attach electrodes to your chest to monitor your heart rate and blood pressure.
  • You will start walking on a treadmill, with the speed and/or incline gradually increasing.
  • While you’re exercising, the lab technician will track your heart’s electrical activity. Throughout the test, you should let the technician know if you feel anything unusual.
  • When the test is completed, the information recorded will be given to your provider for further analysis.
  • A cardiac sonographer and a cardiac nurse will perform the test before stress, during stress, and immediately afterwards.
  • You may have an IV inserted with ultrasound contrast (lipid bubbles - NOT contrast like that given for CT scans or radiology procedures) to enhance the images.
  • You may either exercise on a treadmill or take dobutamine, a medication that increases heart rate and simulates exercise to stress the heart. You will be constantly monitored by an EKG. 
  • The results of the test will be interpreted by a cardiologist with advanced echocardiography certification.
  • A nuclear medicine technologist and a cardiac nurse will perform the test. They will inject a small dose of a radioactive material (isotope) through an IV.
  • For a portion of the study, you will lie on your back, like an x-ray, as images of the heart are captured and recorded. You will also either walk on a treadmill or receive a medication to simulate exercise.
  • The amount of radioactive material absorbed by each area of the heart is then measured by a computer.
  • The amount of radiation exposure from the study is equivalent to spending a couple of hours in the sun or one CT scan, and the radiation lasts only hours in the body before disappearing.
  • An exercise physiologist fits you with a breathing mask that is hooked up to a computer. This mask measures how much oxygen you inhale and exhale. Your heart rate will also be monitored.
  • You begin exercising at a slow pace on a treadmill or stationary bike. The exercise physiologist gradually increases the intensity of the exercise until you come close to the maximum of your ability. 
  • You then perform a cool down for several minutes.
  • Exercise Treadmill Test: The length varies based on the patient. You will exercise as much as you can for as long as possible, until you decide that you should stop.
  • Echocardiogram Stress Test: The procedure takes about an hour. If you have a visit with a cardiologist after this test, plan on being with us for about 90 minutes.
  • Nuclear Stress Test: The procedure takes 3.5 to 4 hours with 30–45-minute periods where you will read, eat, or watch TV.
  • VO2 Max Test: The study generally takes between 10 and 20 minutes. 

Exercise Treadmill, Echocardiogram, and VO2 Max Test:

  • You can eat and drink normally, though we suggest avoiding caffeine on the morning of the procedure.
  • You may be asked to hold on certain medications the morning of the procedure or the night before.
  • We recommend wearing shoes and clothing you would be comfortable walking in.

Nuclear Stress Test:

  • Do not eat or drink after 10:00 pm the night before your test and avoid caffeine and even decaffeinated beverages after 8:00 pm the night before.
  • If you are diabetic, we suggest you bring your glucometer (blood sugar meter) with you. We recommend eating something with peanut butter, soy “No Nut” butter, or a similar source of slow released sugar and protein the night before your test to keep your sugar up since you will be fasting.
  • We recommend wearing shoes and clothing you would be comfortable walking in.

What Sets Us Apart?

As the region’s only academic medical center, we have exceptionally high standards that help ensure the best results for our patients. Our experts use state-of-the-art technology to identify heart disease and offer treatments and strategies to maximize heart health. Whether you need to control your high blood pressure or seek specialized care for an unusual heart condition, we have the expertise for you.


We serve you in the Rochester metropolitan area and surrounding region.

1 location

Paul N. Yu Heart Center - Rochester

Ambulatory Care Center at Strong Memorial Hospital
601 Elmwood Avenue, Ground Floor
Rochester, NY 14626

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