Exercise Treadmill Test

An exercise treadmill test, also known as a stress test, is used to determine how your child’s heart responds to physical exercise.

What is an exercise treadmill test?

An exercise treadmill test is performed to evaluate your child’s risk of having heart disease or a heart rate or rhythm problem. This test is performed on an exercise treadmill or bicycle and usually only involves children seven years of age and older. An exercise treadmill or bicycle can help your doctor determine how much stress your child’s heart can manage before an abnormal rhythm begins or blood flow to the heart muscle declines. Patients will walk or bike while connected to an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) machine via electrodes (small plastic stickers placed on the body). Patients may also be asked to wear a mask over their mouth and a small clamp on their nose to help monitor their oxygen consumption.

Why is an exercise treadmill test performed?

An exercise treadmill tests measure heart rate and rhythm, blood pressure, and a patient’s overall health and fitness.

An exercise treadmill test can help your doctor:

  • Assess symptoms your child may be experiencing, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or palpitations
  • Determine if enough blood is flowing to your child’s heart as their activity level increases
  • Determine if there are potential heart defects that may require additional testing
  • Evaluate the heartbeat response to medication
  • Evaluate how well the heart valves are working
  • Identify abnormal heart rhythms

What can I expect during an exercise treadmill test?

An exercise treadmill test takes approximately one hour, including patient check-in and preparation. A hospital stay is not necessary unless your child's doctor determines their condition requires further observation or hospital admission. Your child may feel a little tired or sore for a few hours after the procedure, particularly if they are not accustomed to exercising. Otherwise, your child should feel normal and be able to return to normal activities within a few hours.

You can expect the following to occur during the exercise treadmill test:

  • A blood pressure cuff to be placed around your child’s arm to monitor blood pressure
  • Electrodes (small plastic stickers) to be placed on your child's chest, arms, and legs
  • Electrodes to be connected to the ECG/EKG machine by lead wires, through which the electrical activity of your child's heart is measured, interpreted, and printed out
  • Resistance and speed to be varied in order to create a more or less rigorous workout
  • Your child to begin exercising on an exercise treadmill or bike
  • Your child to continue exercising until they have reached a target heart rate or are unable to continue due to chest pain, fatigue, irregular heart rhythms, shortness of breath, chest pain, or other debilitating symptoms

Care Team Approach

The Texas Center for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease, a clinical partnership between Dell Children’s Medical Center and UT Health Austin, takes a multidisciplinary approach to your child’s care. This means your child and your family will benefit from the expertise of multiple specialists across a variety of disciplines. Your care team will include pediatric cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons, interventional cardiologists, critical care specialists, hospitalists, anesthesiologists, perfusionists, nurses, advanced practice providers, social workers, psychologists, child life specialists, dietitians, physical and occupational therapists, pharmacists, and more, who work together to provide unparalleled care for patients every step of the way. We collaborate with our colleagues at the Dell Medical School and The University of Texas at Austin to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to identify new therapies to improve treatment outcomes. We are committed to communicating and coordinating your child’s care with referring physicians and other partners in the community to ensure that we are providing comprehensive, whole-person care.

Learn More About Your Care Team

Texas Center for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease

Dell Children's Specialty Pavilion
4910 Mueller Blvd., Austin, Texas 78723
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