A chemical stress test evaluates the condition of the heart muscle, and is an alternative to the more common treadmill stress test, according to heartsite.com. Both tests determine how well the heart functions under different levels of physical stress, but the chemical stress test does this through medication.
Chemical stress tests are recommended for people who cannot physically perform a treadmill stress test, according to the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology (ASNC). These patients may have back pain, joint disease, lung disorders, a suspected heart attack or other conditions.
A chemical stress test involves medication administered intravenously to make the patient's heart beat faster without exercising. The medication opens the arteries and allows blood to flow at maximum capacity.
While the medication is administered, a qualified health care practitioner monitors a patient’s blood pressure and electrocardiogram (ECG) to determine how the heart reacts, reports HeartSite.com.
People having a chemical stress test may experience side effects, such as anxiety, panic, dizziness, flushing, headache, nausea and shakiness.
According to HeartSite.com, symptoms indicating a serious problem during the test include chest or arm pain, palpitations, irregular heartbeat or shortness of breath. The ASNC warns that asthmatics should not take this test. Rarely, a patient may have a heart attack during a chemical stress test.