Your child’s doctor may recommend that your child have an exercise stress test as part of their cardiac testing. This type of test may also be referred to as an “exercise physiology test,” a “cardiopulmonary exercise test” or even a “cardiac stress test.” The purpose of this test is to assess how fit your child’s heart and lungs are (i.e., their cardiopulmonary fitness).
An exercise stress test is recommended every few years for all children with congenital heart disease. It is also recommended if your child starts to have exercise-related symptoms, such as chest pain or shortness of breath, when they are otherwise healthy.
Exercise Stress Testing at Rush University Children’s Hospital
What to Expect During an Exercise Stress Test
- For the exercise test, your child will be asked to exercise on either a stationary bike or treadmill while we monitor their heart using an electrocardiogram (ECG). We determine which type of exercise test is needed based on your child’s specific needs. We use a progressive exercise protocol. That means your child will exercise until they feel they can no longer continue.
- If needed, we may give your child a breathing test called spirometry before and after exercise to check your child’s lung function.
- A typical exercise test lasts 10-15 minutes. The pre-exercise set up and post-exercise monitoring period each can take between 15-20 minutes. We recommend you plan for an hour with us.
- Parents can watch the test in our exercise lab or wait in the waiting room and come in after the exercise part of the testing is over. Parents must be present while we explain the exam (at the beginning of the testing process) to sign an informed consent for their child.
- An initial report of your child’s results is usually available within 15-20 minutes. A doctor will provide feedback to you on the day of your child’s test or will call you with a final report within 48 hours . A copy of the report will be available in your child’s MyChart account as well.
How to Prepare for an Exercise Stress Test
- Your child should wear appropriate clothing suitable for exercising, including sneakers.
- We suggest you bring a water bottle for your child and a current list of your child’s medications.
- Your child should not have any caffeine before the exercise test.
Does Exercise Testing Hurt?
Most exercise tests do not hurt. Exercise testing can sometimes make your child feel short of breath or like their heart is racing.
Is Exercise Testing Safe?
Yes, formal exercise testing at experienced centers is extremely safe. Our staff will monitor your child closely throughout the exam. We will end the test quickly if your child starts to experience any negative symptoms or if we detect any issues.
Although serious complications are extremely unlikely, we conduct the testing with all the appropriate medications, equipment and staff to assist in the event of an emergency.
Excellence in Exercise Stress Testing in Children
- Cardiac exercise test expertise in children: With our extensive experience conducting heart and lung exercise testing in children, we can offer the most comprehensive cardiovascular evaluation for your child. Formal exercise testing gives us reliable insights into your child’s cardiovascular health. Our pediatric heart experts then use this data to personalize your child’s treatment plan.
- Comprehensive cardiac testing: One size does not fit all in terms of kids’ heart needs. Some children may need other cardiac testing instead of — or in addition to — an exercise stress test. That’s why we offer a full range of cardiac testing to understand your child’s heart condition — and to give us multiple options to treat it.
- Nationally recognized heart specialists: Pediatric cardiologists at Rush University Children’s Hospital are experts in treating complex heart disorders. They offer children the latest treatments, including minimally invasive procedures and surgeries. These minimally invasive options typically mean that your child will have a shorter recovery and spend less time in the hospital.