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Cardiac stress test

Your child is scheduled for a cardiac stress test.

Date: __________________________________

Test time: __________________________________

Check-in time: __________________________________


Children's - Minneapolis
Special Diagnostics - 1st floor
2525 Chicago Avenue South
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404
Phone: 612-813-6966

Other tests to be done at the same time:

___ echocardiogram

___ exercise capacity

___ pulmonary function test (see separate education material)

Please bring comfortable running shoes for your child, a list of your child's medicines, and your insurance card. If you have questions about your insurance coverage for these services, or any special referral requirements, please contact your insurance company directly. They will advise you about your plan's coverage.

What is a cardiac stress test?

During exercise, the body needs extra oxygen. The heart and lungs have to work harder than normal to supply the extra oxygen to the body.

A cardiac stress test helps the doctor see how well the heart functions during exercise.

Can I be with my child during the test?

The stress test takes about 45 to 60 minutes, and you are welcome to stay in the room. If more tests are done with the stress test (such as pulmonary function testing), it may take about 90 minutes. In most cases parents do not stay in the room for pulmonary function testing. It has been found that most children perform the test better when done one-on-one with the technician.

What should we do before the test?

Children are usually less afraid and feel more successful when they know what to expect and what is expected of them. Read and discuss this information with your child. Explain how the tests are done, especially what your child will see, hear, and feel. Tell your child that the test does not hurt. Answer as many questions as you can.

Your child must wear clothing and shoes that are comfortable for running. Have your child eat something light (such as toast or cereal) 2 or 3 hours before your scheduled appointment.

How is the test done?

Ten electrodes (small, sticky disks) will be put on the chest. Wires are attached to the electrodes and connected to an electrocardiograph (ECG) machine. A technologist will check the heart rate, rhythm, and blood pressure several times: at rest, during the exercise, and after exercise.

Your child will walk and/or run on a treadmill. The treadmill's speed and incline will increase during each stage of the test, until your child is unable to do any more. When the exercise portion of the test is done, your child will lie down and rest for about 5 minutes.

If other tests are needed, how are they done?

An echocardiogram is a safe, painless test that can help your doctor identify the cause of some heart problems. The test uses sound waves to gather information about the heart structure.

A technician will hold a transducer (ultrasound camera) on the chest. The transducer sends and receives high frequency sound waves that pass painlessly and harmlessly through the chest. The sound bounces off your child's heart and the information is displayed on a screen for the technician to watch.

Measuring oxygen use and carbon dioxide produced
While the child is exercising during the stress test, a mask is worn to measure oxygen and carbon dioxide.

Pulmonary function test
This is a painless, safe breathing test. The technician will teach your child a few different ways of breathing. First, your child's baseline function will be tested. During this part of the test your child will blow into a tube, using effort as if blowing out birthday candles.

Next, your child will do the cardiac stress test (explained above).

After exercise, the set of breathing tests will be repeated to check for any change. A bronchodilator (medicine that helps open the small airways into the lungs) will then be given either by inhaler or a nebulizer treatment. Some people notice a faster heart rate for a short time after taking the medicine.

The technician will then repeat the breathing test again to check for any change with the bronchodilator.

What can I expect after the test?

After the test, your child may use his or her medicines as prescribed. Your doctor will discuss the test results with you.


This sheet is not specific to your child but provides general information. If you have any questions about results, please call the doctor. If you have any questions about the test please call the number at the site listed at the beginning of this sheet.

Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
Patient/Family Education
2525 Chicago Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Last reviewed 8/2015 ©Copyright

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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