A cardiopulmonary test, commonly referred to as a “stress test” or a “treadmill test”, is a useful marker to evaluate how well the heart and lungs function during physical activity.

Dr. Benjamin Laracuente and the staff at Tri-State Pulmonary in Monaca, PA will order this test to assess a patient’s overall exercise tolerance and stamina. This test is typically used by a pulmonologist to identify if a patient’s shortness of breath or exercise intolerance is linked to a ventilatory issue, circulatory issue, or deconditioning. It can be administered to:

  • Identify the cause of inexplicable shortness of breath
  • Locate areas of the heart that aren’t receiving enough blood or oxygen
  • Reveal abnormalities in heart rhythm
  • Evaluate lung function
  • Help a patient with known heart or lung disease identify a comfortable level of exercise
  • Evaluate physical conditioning prior to surgery

During this test, the patient breathes through a special mouthpiece to measure and analyze the amount of inhaled and exhaled gases. This is referred to as a “gas exchange” measurement” and it’s a key component of this test; providing insight into oxygen intake, carbon dioxide production, and ventilatory effectiveness.

Pulmonary and cardiac activity like respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, heart rate, and blood pressure are also measured.

How Is a Cardio Pulmonary Test Performed?

The test is performed right at the Tri-State Pulmonary Medical Practice in Monaca, PA. Prior to the test, small pads known as electrodes are placed on the patient’s chest, arms, back, and legs. These electrodes record the heart’s electrical impulses, transmitting them to an electrocardiogram that displays the impulses on a graph paper or cardiac monitor.

A light layer of gel may be used to prepare the skin for these electrodes. Men should expect to have some of their chest hair shaved to ensure the electrodes press directly against the skin.

A blood pressure monitoring cuff or finger clip device will also be used. A headpiece is typically worn to anchor the mouthpiece so it doesn’t fall out of patient’s mouth when exercise picks up.

Recordings will be conducted while the patient is lying down and then when they stand up to capture the patient’s resting heart rate. Clips are placed on the nose to ensure all breathing is through the mouthpiece.

From there, exercise begins with a slow walk on the treadmill. The treadmill’s speed and incline increases every three minutes until the patient either achieves their target heart rate (typically 220 beats per minute minus their age), the doctor has gathered enough information, or the patient can no longer continue exercising.  If chest pain, shortness of breath, or any ill effects occur during exercise, Dr. Laracuente will stop the cardiopulmonary testing.

What To Do Before Your Cardiopulmonary Stress Test

Dr. Laracuente will provide instructions prior to your cardio pulmonary test. It’s pertinent that these instructions are followed closely. You’ll be advised to wear clothing that is loose, breathable, and comfortable enough to exercise in.

It’s important for Dr. Laracuente to know all medications (including over-the-counter remedies and supplements) you’re taking prior to the test. Some medications may need to be avoided prior to the test. You’ll also be advised the following:

  • Do NOT engage in any strenuous exercise for 2 hours prior to the test
  • Do NOT eat or drink fluids for 2 hours prior to the test
  • Do NOT consume alcohol for 24 hours before the test
  • Do NOT consume coffee, tea, caffeinated, and carbonated beverages for 6 hours prior the test
  • Do NOT smoke cigarettes or use any other tobacco products for 6 hours prior to the test

Most patients can resume their usual activities immediate following a cardiopulmonary stress test.