Ordering and understanding the exercise stress test

Am Fam Physician. 1999 Jan 15;59(2):401-10.


The exercise stress test is a useful screening tool for the detection of significant coronary artery disease. Documentation of the patient's symptoms, medications, past and current significant illnesses, and usual level of physical activity helps the physician determine if an exercise stress test is appropriate. The physical examination must include consideration of the patient's ability to walk and exercise, along with any signs of acute or serious disease that may affect the test results or the patient's ability to perform the test. The test report contains comments about the maximal heart rate and level of exercise achieved, and symptoms, arrhythmias, electrocardiographic changes and vital signs during exercise. This report allows the clinician to determine if the test was "maximal" or "submaximal." The quality of the test and its performance add to the validity of the results. The conclusion section of the test report indicates whether the test results were "positive," "negative," "equivocal" or "uninterpretable." Further testing may be indicated to obtain optional information about coronary artery disease and ischemic risk if the test results were equivocal or uninterpretable.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Contraindications
  • Coronary Disease / blood
  • Coronary Disease / diagnosis*
  • Exercise Test / standards*
  • Humans
  • Medical History Taking
  • Patient Selection
  • Physical Examination
  • Sensitivity and Specificity