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Cardiac stress test (stress ECG)

A cardiac stress test or stress electrocardiogram (stress ECG) measures your heart's activity when exposed to stress or exercise

Cardiac stress test (stress ECG) being performed on a male athlete, with pads stuck to his chest
A cardiac stress test is a type of electrocardiograph (ECG), which is a simple test that performed to check your heart's rhythm and electrical activity. The stress test is performed to understand how your heart functions under stress, and might be recommended if you have an unusual heartbeat or chest pain. 

Your heart's electrical system

Your heart pumps blood around your body with every beat, sending the necessary oxygen and nutrients to the right parts of your body to keep you alive. To pump your blood properly, your heart relies on a network of cells, often referred to as the heart's electrical system. An ECG can detect the signals produced by your heart each time it beats to monitor the rhythm of your heart. It usually shows your heart rhythm and electrical activity as a graph displayed electronically or printed on paper.

Your cardiac stress test (stress ECG) with Circle Health Group

At Circle Health Group, we have a large network of multidisciplinary healthcare professionals, including consultant cardiologists and cardiac physiologists, who can perform cardiac stress testing. To find out more, you can call a member of our advisory team on 0141 300 5009, or book a consultation with a specialist online.

The cost of an electrocardiogram stress test with Circle Health Group starts from £208.*

If you have a course of treatment with Circle Health Group, we usually offer a fixed-price package. However, when you need tests or scans as part of your diagnosis, these are charged separately. We will let you know at the time exactly how much the test will cost and when you’ll need to pay.

If you have private health insurance, these tests will usually be covered by your policy. We work with all major providers of private medical insurance.

If you are having the test as part of an ongoing treatment plan, these tests may be included in your fixed-price package.

*This is just a guide price for patients who are paying for their own treatment. The actual cost will be confirmed to you before you have the test.

Although it has a similar sounding name, an electrocardiogram (ECG) is different from an echocardiogram.

An electrocardiogram is a test used to monitor your heart's rhythm and electrical activity through electrodes (these are small sticky pads that are attached to your chest for the test). An echocardiogram looks at the structure and functioning of your heart, using an ultrasound.

A cardiac stress test is performed to help your physiologist and consultant understand how your heart functions when it is working harder. During the test, your heart will be increased to a level that someone your age should reach without experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness or fainting
  • An abnormal heart rhythm 
  • Swelling in your legs
  • Extreme chest tightness
  • Extreme chest pain
  • Upper back pain

If you do experience any of the above symptoms when you are resting, exercising, or both, a cardiac stress test could determine why. Your physiologist or consultant might offer the test if they detect abnormalities in a regular echocardiogram. This is to help understand the cause of your symptoms and whether they are triggered by physical activity.

Before the test begins, your consultant or physiologist will attach several sticky sensors (known as electrodes) to your chest. You will be required to remove the upper half of your clothing for this, and your chest might be cleaned or shaved to ensure the electrodes stick properly. These electrodes are connected to an ECG recording machine that records the electrical rhythm of your heart. This is most commonly recorded as an electronic graph, but can also be printed onto a piece of paper. 

You will be asked to exercise on a treadmill or exercise bike while the test is being performed. The intensity of this exercise routine will vary as the test goes on, so that we can monitor your heart under different levels of exertion. If you cannot exercise for a stress test due to mobility issues, you might be offered a medication that makes your heart work harder for a short period of time instead. This is called dobutamine. Speak with your consultant about whether this is the right option for you. 

No preparation as such is needed for this test. You will be shown how to use the exercise equipment safely and properly before this test. You will need to come to your appointment wearing appropriate fitness clothing, in particular running shoes. 

If you are having medication instead of exercising for your stress test, this will be administered with an injection. There is no preparation needed for this, but your consultant will ensure you feel ready to have the injection. 

There is no recovery from this test as such, but you might have some redness and discomfort on your chest from the electrodes. This will resolve naturally. Depending on the outcome of the test, you might have to make some diet and lifestyle changes when you return home. Your physiologist and consultant will ensure you are aware of these factors before you leave the hospital.

There are no major risks associated with having a cardiac stress test, because it is a test and not an invasive procedure. You might experience some dizziness, nausea, and chest pain during or after the test, but this will subside quickly and will not cause any long-lasting effects.

Your doctor will ensure you know everything you need to know about the potential risks of having a cardiac stress test before you have it, so you can feel prepared for the test and reassured that complications are rare. 

You will usually you receive your results on the same day as your cardiac stress test.

Your physiologist will need around an hour to analyse your results after your test. Your consultant will confirm their analysis and your diagnosis. You will meet with your consultant after the test to discuss your results and potential treatment plan if you need one.

In some cases, you might need to wait a day or two before getting your results, but this depends on your individual circumstances.

When you choose to go private with Circle Health Group, you can expect:   

  • Flexible appointment times and locations to fit your routine  
  • The freedom to choose which hospital and consultant suit your needs  
  • Personalised, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to your individual needs  
  • Comfortable and safe private facilities maintained by expert multidisciplinary teams  
  • Support by the same compassionate clinical team from beginning to end  
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included  
  • Flexible payment options to spread the cost of your care

If you would like to learn more about this procedure, book your appointment online today or call a member of our team directly on 0141 300 5009.

Content reviewed by Circle in-house team in July 2022. Next review due July 2025.

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