What is a Pulmonary Stress Test?

There are a number of different types of pulmonary stress tests, but they are all similar in that they measure how exercise affects the level of oxygen in your blood. A pulmonary stress test may be done to identify a specific level of impairment, or to see how well a treatment (such as inhalers or steroids) is working.

During the test, your heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen level, and breathing may all be measured. You may be asked to wear a mask that measures how much oxygen you breathe in and how much carbon dioxide you breathe out. Then you will be asked to exercise: It is the exercise that "stresses" your body. You may be asked to walk around for a few minutes, to walk on a treadmill, or to pedal a stationary bicycle as far as you can.

A pulmonary stress test can see how well your heart, lungs, and muscles all work together when you are moving around. It is used to identify heart disease, problems with lung function, to identify a need for supplemental oxygen, or simply as a measure to see how well a patient is able to tolerate exercise.

While your physician will give you specific instructions prior to the test, it is generally a good idea to wear comfortable clothes you can exercise in and closed-toe shoes. Don't do any heavy exercise right before the test that will wear you out and lower your ability to function during the test. The test is painless and can be expected to take about an hour.
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