Ask The Expert
March 28, 2012
Women can have a different set of symptoms that signal coronary heart disease and heart attacks than men.
Your wifeís doctor is partly right. Women are more likely than men to have misleading or incorrect treadmill tests. This is partly because breast tissue distorts the electrocardiogram signals by pushing the sensors further away from the heart.
Positive stress tests in women often turn out to be false alarms. But to be certain, doctors often order an extensive round of other tests that may include an angiogram. Thatís why the stress test shouldnít be used as a screening test for silent heart disease.
This does not mean that exercise testing is useless in all women all of the time. In fact, an exercise test may be useful if your wife has signs of heart disease. It may also be helpful if she has had heart attack warning signs, ó such as chest pain, lower back pain, nausea, and excessive fatigue ó to determine whatís causing them.
There are different types of exercise stress tests. Thereís the standard stress test, which records electrical signals throughout the heart during exercise Other tests use ultrasound to see how the heart contracts or nuclear imaging to watch blood flow through the coronary arteries during exercise. These types of tests make for more accurate results in some people.
I would encourage your wife to see a doctor who is familiar with exercise stress tests and understands how to interpret the results in women. This test may do the same thing for her that it did for you.