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The Chemical Stress Test Side Effects You Need to Know

July 12, 2018

chemical-stress-testYour doctor thinks you may have heart disease. You both want to know for sure but would like to avoid an invasive procedure to get your answer. To accomplish this, you’ll be asked to undergo a chemical stress test. Although it’s much less invasive, there are some chemical stress test side effects you should be aware of.

Chemical stress tests are also called nuclear stress tests. You’ll get one if your doctor suspects signs of heart disease. The test will help confirm the diagnosis.

Traditional stress tests are carried out on a treadmill or exercise bike. But if you’re not able to to do this because of something like back trouble, joint pain or unsteady gait, your doctor will order a chemical stress test. During a chemical stress test, medication, instead of exercise, will be used to increase blood flow to your heart, and a series of images will be taken to see how well your heart is holding up.

The risk you’ll experience from a chemical stress test is very small. It’s about the same as if you were going to jog around your neighborhood or a run up a flight of stairs. But there are some side effects you may experience from the test. So, let’s take a look at the chemical stress test side effects you may experience and what can cause them.

Chemical Stress Test Side Effects Caused by Drugs

If you’re going to experience any side effects from a chemical stress test, chances are that they will come from the medication you are given. The drugs are needed to perform the test accurately. They’ll do things like:

  • Raise your heart rate
  • Dilate your blood vessels
  • Increase blood flow to the heart

But sometimes they will cause side effects during a chemical stress test. Here is a list of the types of medications that may be used during your stress test and the side effects they may cause, according to RxList.com. They are as follows:

1. Dobutamine—It causes heart rate to rise and blood pressure to increase. Common side effects include:


  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Ventricular ectopic activity
  • Nervousness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Palpitations
  • Low platelet counts (thrombocytopenia)
  • Swelling at the injection site
  1. 2. Adenoscan (adenosine)—This chemical stress test medication causes dilation of all the blood vessels in the body. Common side effects include:
    • Flushing
    • Chest discomfort
    • Shortness of breath
    • Throat/neck/jaw discomfort
    • abdominal pain
    • Lightheadedness
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea, headache
    • Upset stomach
    • Pain at injection site
  2. 3. Lexiscan (regadenoson)—This is now the most commonly used medication because it is tolerated well. It also causes enlargement of the blood vessels in the body and increased blood flow to the heart. Side effects from Lexiscan include:
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Decreased sense of taste
  • Mild chest discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Flushing (warmth, redness, or tingly feeling under your skin)

How to Handle Chemical Stress Test Side Effects

Keep in mind, the chances of any or all of these side effects, brought on by a chemical stress test, are small. And you should also remember that you’ll be surrounded by a team of doctors and nurses who will know how to handle rare complications like:

  • Irregular heartbeat, caused by the stress on your heart
  • Chest pains; tell your doctor right away
  • Allergic reaction to the medication

In some cases, the medication could give you a headache. If this happens, another medication or caffeine can be given to help alleviate the pain. The important thing to note is that your doctors will be prepared for any side effect you may experience.

To ensure all safety precautions are being taken, the FDA even recommends doctors screen all chemical stress test candidates for their suitability to receive Lexiscan or Adenoscan.

Although it may seem scary, the side effects that could be caused by a chemical stress test are rare. And if they do occur, there are medical experts right there with you to help. Our guide: “Heart Disease Facts That Could Change Your Life” may help to calm your fears a little more. Inside you’ll find some of the things you can do to decrease your risk or prevent heart disease.

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