Exercise EKG / ECG Testing
What is an Exercise EKG Test?An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is one of the fastest and simplest procedures used to evaluate the electrical activity and patterns of the heart. It consists of using electrodes (small stickers) that are placed at certain locations on your child's arms, chest and legs or trunk. When the electrodes are attached to lead wires connected to the EKG machine the electrical activity and pattern of your child's heart is measured, printed out and ready for the physician to analyze and make an interpretation.
An exercise EKG (also called exercise stress test) is performed by doctors or specialists on patients to assess the heart's response to exercise or stress. The EKG is continuously monitored while your child is exercising on a stationary or supine bike or treadmill. This procedure is appropriately and safely used on children from 5 years old to young adults.
At certain points throughout the exercise stress test an EKG recording and tracing will be printed out to enable doctors or specialists to compare the effects of increasing stress on the heart’s electrical activity and patterns. In a supine or upright bicycle exercise stress test your child will pedal at a certain rate against increased resistance. On the treadmill, your child will walk (or possibly run) at a certain speed with increases in grade (incline) in order to make him/her exercise at harder levels. Your child will exercise until reaching fatigue, target heart rate (determined by the doctor based on your child's age and physical status) or to the point of worsening signs or symptoms, such as chest pain, irregular heart beats or rhythms, or shortness of breath.
How is the Exercise EKG Test performed?The exercise stress test is performed at a hospital, medical center, outpatient clinic or in a physician's office. The test includes using electrodes (small stickers) that are attached to lead wires and connected to an EKG machine to monitor the heart’s electrical activity and pattern. The test also involves using an electronic blood pressure and pulse oximeter (to measure oxygen saturation) machine. All devices or machines are continuously used for monitoring and recording. A stationary supine or upright bicycle or treadmill is used for the exercise part.
The beginning of the exercise stress test consists of having your child get a baseline EKG recording and blood pressure measurement while in a seated position. Then he/she will perform the exercise portion of the test by pedaling on a bike or walking on a treadmill. The bike’s resistance or incline and speed of the treadmill will be gradually increased over time to stress your child’s heart, lungs and muscles. The EKG, blood pressure and oxygen saturation will be continuously monitored before, during and after the exercise test. When the procedure is complete your child will actively recover by pedaling or walking for 5 to 10 minutes and if necessary, allowed to lie or sit, in order to recover.
The procedure will take approximately one hour, including check-in, preparation, and the actual procedure.
Your child may feel tired or sore for a few hours after the exercise stress test, particularly if he/she is not used to exercising at high intensities or up to maximum. Otherwise, your child should feel normal within a few hours after the procedure, if not sooner.
After the exercise stress test, a hospital stay is not necessary, unless your child's doctor determines that your child's condition requires further observation or testing.
And depending on the findings from the exercise stress test, additional tests or procedures may be scheduled to gather further diagnostic information about your child’s condition or health status.
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