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Cardio-Pulmonary Exercise Testing

There are many reasons for performing a Cardiopulmonary Exercise Test or CPET these include:

  • Assessing fitness/suitability for planned surgery (e.g. major abdominal  surgery, lung resection, transplantation)
  • Assessing the cause of poor exercise tolerance
  • Unexplained shortness of breath
  • To assess fitness
  • To distinguish between cardiac and respiratory disease
  • In Sports therapy, for monitoring athletes

Before the Test

It is recommended that you wear light, loose fitting clothing for the test and flat shoes. It is advisable not to eat a big meal before your exercise test and you should be told before you attend if there is any medication that you may have to stop before coming for the test.

Before starting the test, the Physiologist (or other health care professional) will explain everything carefully and allow you to ask any questions.

How is the Cardiopulmonary Exercise Test Performed (CPET)?

The test is non-invasive and monitors the effects of exercise on your breathing and heart. The test is commonly performed on an exercise bicycle (or cycle ergometer), but may also be performed with you walking on a treadmill. On a bicycle, you will pedal against an increasing resistance; in other words it will get harder to pedal. For the treadmill, the speed and slope of the treadmill will be increased as the test goes on.

During the exercise test, you will be connected to a mouthpiece or mask. This will allow us to measure your breathing during exercise; how much oxygen you take in and how much carbon dioxide you breathe out. You will also be connected to an ECG machine and this will measure your heart rate during the exercise. Your blood pressure will also be checked. A small probe will be placed on one of your fingers to check your oxygen levels.

The exercise will start easy and very gradually get harder. Your oxygen levels, blood pressure and ECG will be carefully monitored throughout the test. The test will usually take up to a maximum of 10 minutes to complete and will be stopped at any point should the Physiologist (or other healthcare professional) think it necessary or if you feel you cannot exercise further.

At the end of the test, once you have recovered, you will be allowed to go home. The test information will be analysed and a report sent to your doctor.


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