An ECG (electrocardiogram) is one of the most widely used and important methods for diagnosing heart conditions. During a stress (or exercise) ECG you walk on a treadmill or cycle gently while electrodes on your chest, wrists and ankles monitor your blood pressure and the heart’s response to exercise.
Including preparation and recovery time, the test usually takes around an hour.
It’s understandable to worry if you think there something wrong with your heart, but early diagnosis is best. It means that if you need treatment, you can get it – and you gain peace of mind if there are no problems.
A consultant will recommend a stress ECG to help diagnose symptoms such as:
The stress ECG provides you, and your consultant, with information on how your heart reacts when you’re physically exerting yourself. The electrodes provide information to a monitoring machine.
This will tell your consultant how well blood is flowing through the arteries to ensure it provides your heart muscle with the blood it needs.
Doctors might also ask you to have a stress ECG to check your progress if you have previously had heart treatment, including operations.
Your tests and any treatment will be tailored around you, with your choice of surgeon, location and timing.
The procedure will be performed in one of our 38 modern, well-equipped hospitals – where we practice some of the latest, advanced medical treatments.
All our consultant cardiac surgeons, cardiologists are at the top of their profession. To work for us, they have to demonstrate their expertise in complex cardiac surgery and their chosen sub-speciality. A number of our consultants have international reputations for their research on coronary and valve surgery and high-risk patients.
Our patients are at the heart of what we do and we want you to be in control of your care. To us, that means you can choose the consultant you want to see, and when you want. They'll be with you every step of the way.
All of our consultants are of the highest calibre and benefit from working in our modern, well-equipped hospitals.
Our consultants have high standards to meet, often holding specialist NHS posts and delivering expertise in complex sub-specialty surgeries. Many of our consultants have international reputations for their research in their specialised field.
You will have a formal consultation with a healthcare professional. During this time you will be able to explain your medical history, symptoms and raise any concerns that you might have.
We will also discuss with you whether any further diagnostic tests, such as scans or blood tests, are needed. Any additional costs will be discussed before further tests are carried out.
We've tried to make your experience with us as easy and relaxed as possible.
For more information on visiting hours, our food, what to pack if you're staying with us, parking and all those other important practicalities, please visit our patient information pages.
Our dedicated team will also give you tailored advice to follow in the run up to your visit.
You should not have a heavy meal before the stress ECG but eat enough an hour or two before it to give you the energy you’ll need. As you’ll be exercising during the stress ECG, it’s also a good idea to wear loose clothing.
Any sort of heart test can be a stressful time but our experienced staff will reassure you through the painless stress ECG. They’ll also stop or slow down the treadmill or bike if you feel unwell at any stage or if your blood pressure starts to cause them concern.
A stress ECG is just like a normal electrocardiogram test, except you’ll be physically active instead of lying down.
Your consultant or the expert technician will place electrodes on your wrists, ankles and chest. These are connected by wires to a machine recording all the electrical signals from your heart. You’ll then use a treadmill or an exercise bike as the ECG machine records the changing electrical activity of your heart and your blood pressure.
The treadmill or bike will be set at a low speed initially and this will rise gently, depending on your fitness and general health.
Allowing for the time to fit the electrodes and your recovery afterwards, the test takes around an hour and you can leave as soon as you have your breath back and you're fully recovered.
We’ll provide you with water after the test.
After a few minutes to let you recover, your consultant will discuss the results with you and what they indicate about the health of your heart. If necessary, they will talk to you about possible further tests or what treatment you might need.
We are committed to delivering excellent individual care and customer service across our network of hospitals, clinics and specialist care centres around the UK. Our dedicated and highly trained team aim to achieve consistently excellent results. For us it's more than just treating patients, it's about looking after people.
The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.