Cambridge Cardiac Care Centre

Stress Test

A stress test is simply an exercise test that is carefully monitored for safety.

It's nothing to really get stressed about.

The cardiac stress test is a very common, non-invasive, and generally safe diagnostic tool that tests how the heart behaves under the “stress” of exercise. Patients are asked to walk on a treadmill with slowly increasing intensity while their heart rhythm and blood pressure are monitored. Incline and speed are gradually increased, every 3-minutes, until the target heart rate is reached. An exercise stress test may be conducted to diagnose coronary artery disease, to discern if abnormal heart rhythms are triggered by exercise and to help your cardiac rehab team develop a safe exercise program for you.

Our Cardiovascular Technologist Team

Our highly trained CVT team is made up of some of the region’s most accomplished Cardiovascular Technologists, skilled in ECG, holter monitoring, stress testing, ambulatory blood pressure monitoring and spectrometry testing. With an emphasis on skill-building and a commitment to the pursuit of scientific excellence, our Cardiovascular Technologists (CVT) are the eyes and ears of the clinic, providing thorough and reliable clinical reports that are the underpinning of everything we do.

Medications may affect your test.

Follow your healthcare practitioner’s instructions.

Some patients may be required to discontinue taking certain medications. This does not, however, apply to all patients. So, please, do not stop any medications on your own without the express instructions of your healthcare provider. They should inform you at least 48 hours prior to your appointment if a temporary hold is required. On the day of your test, you may resume taking your medications immediately following the procedure.


Preparing for your appointment

Please follow these instructions the morning of your appointment:

  1. Enjoy a light meal 3-4 hours before your appointment.
  2. Stay away from caffeine. No coffee, tea, chocolate or soda pop. Please also avoid decaf products since they still have trace amounts of caffeine that can interfere with your test.
  3. Your healthcare provider may have directed you to stop certain medications the day before your appointment. Please DO NOT make any changes to your medication regimen without first speaking with your healthcare provider.
  4. Wear comfortable exercise clothes the day of your appointment as if you are going to the gym.
  5. Bring running shoes or sneakers with you to change into once are called into the testing room.
  6. Bring a list of all the medications you are currently taking.

Patient Education

A step by step guide to your stress test appointment.

Once you have been called into the testing room, this is what you can expect to happen:

  1. A technologist or sonographer will give you a consent form to sign and will explain the test to you. They will be happy to answer any questions you may have about the procedure. However, once the test begins, they will not be able to discuss the results of the test or what they see on the screen, as per Ontario law.
  2. You will be given privacy to change into a gown that will be provided to you. You will be asked to remove all upper body clothing and fasten the gown in the front.
  3. Make sure that you have running shoes or sneakers on and they are laced up.
  4. When the technologist returns, they will apply adhesive electrodes to your chest to set up for ECG monitoring. The electrode sites will be cleaned with alcohol and possibly shaven to ensure a continuous ECG recording can be maintained without any interference.
  5. A blood pressure cuff will also be placed on your arm so that periodic measurements can be taken during the test.
  6. Next, as a safety precaution, you will be asked to mount the treadmill by straddling both sides of the machine rather than standing directly on the belt.
  7. The technologist will indicate when it is time to stand on the belt and begin walking. Beginning with a slow introductory pace, the intensity of the exercise will increase every 3 minutes until the target heart rate is reached.
  8. As the test progresses and exercise becomes more difficult, patients may use the railing on the treadmill to assist their balance, if necessary. Try to keep your head up and looking straight ahead as looking down at the belt sometimes makes people feel dizzy.
  9. You will be monitored throughout the test. If a problem occurs, the technologist will stop the test right away. It is important for you to tell the technologist if you experience any symptoms, such as chest pain, dizziness, unusual shortness of breath, or extreme fatigue.
  10. Your blood pressure, heart rate, and ECG will continue to be monitored as you rest on the exam table for a few minutes after the treadmill exercise is complete. Your blood oxygen saturation and, in some cases, a quick breathing test (spirometry test) may also be done before and after the treadmill portion of the test.
  11. Data from the test will be reviewed by a cardiologist in a timely fashion and a report will then be sent to your healthcare provider.
  12. Following the test, you may resume your regular activities.

Why did my doctor order a stress test?

Determining how the heart reacts under various levels of strain can offer an important piece of the puzzle when trying to determine a diagnosis and treatment plan. The stress test is usually used to help:

  • Diagnose coronary artery disease (CAD).
  • Diagnose the possible cause of symptoms such as chest pain (angina), exercise-induced shortness of breath, exercise-induced lightheadedness or exercise-induced palpitations.
  • Predict the risk of future cardiac events including possible heart attack along with other heart-related conditions.
  • Determine a safe level of exercise for cardiovascular condition and cardiac rehabilitation requirements.

What are the risks of “stressing” my heart during the stress test?

The stress test is meant to diagnose and prevent cardiac events from happening, not induce them. Complications during a stress test are extremely rare. Nevertheless, experienced medical staff who are trained to handle emergency situations are in attendance at all times. Patients are under constant cardiac monitoring during the test which means that it will be halted and appropriate medical attention will be received at the earliest sign.

Is this test covered by OHIP?

Yes. OHIP covers your stress test, provided it has been ordered for medical, diagnostic purposes. On some occasions, patients require a stress test for insurance or ministry of transportation assessment in which case, OHIP does not cover the test and the cost of the test is charged to the patient or their insurance directly.

Wait Times

Drag to see the table

Cardiac Test Routine Test Wait Time Urgent Test Wait Time
ABPM 2 weeks Same day
ECG 24 hours Same day
Echocardiogram 2 weeks 36 hours
Stress Test (Exercise / Treadmill) 2 weeks Same day
Stress Echocardiogram 2 weeks 24 hours
Holter Monitor - 24 Hour 2 weeks 24 hours
Holter Monitor - 48 Hour 2 weeks 24 hours
Holter Monitor – 72 Hour 2 weeks 48 hours
Holter Monitor - 2 Weeks 2 weeks 48 hours
Spirometry 24 hours Same day

The above wait-times indicate the standard benchmarks that Cambridge Cardiac Care strives to meet each and every day. Unforeseen circumstances and Public Health mandates, may effect these wait times. Rest assured that timely access is a driving force at CCC: we will get you in as soon as possible, based on your assessed level of urgency.