What is the Bruce Protocol Stress Test?

Why was bruce protocol stress test developed in the first place? Previous to the Bruce protocol stress test; there was no proper way to find out the condition of the heart or to check whether the blood was being pumped through the heart at its usual speed. Even though certain tests were performed, not all patients could undergo the tests. Especially patients already suffering from heart conditions could not perform those tests. Therefore doctors had to rely of the symptoms described by the patients and test the heart’s condition when it is at rest. To avoid such assumptions to be the reasons of deduction for a heart disease, Bruce and his colleagues developed an exercise stress test which included a treadmill. The bruce protocol stress test was further developed by attaching the motorised treadmill with electrographs.

What is the Bruce Protocol Stress Test?

What is the Bruce Protocol Stress Test?

The bruce protocol stress test or the Bruce Treadmill test protocol was first designed in 1963, by Robert A. Bruce. Bruce protocol stress test was a non-invasive stress test to assess patients with probable or suspected weak heart conditions. Other than a stress test it is also called as the exercise tolerance test. Bruce protocol stress test is performed to check:

  • Heartbeat rate
  • The blood pressure level
  • How much pressure your heart can take
  • How well your heart performs when under pressure.

The total time consumed in the bruce protocol stress test is 40 minutes to an hour. The person is patched with several electrodes in at least 10 clear areas of the chest, arms and legs. These patches are connected with the ECG machine by wires. Under the supervision of a doctor and a trained technician, you start to perform the bruce protocol stress test. You start walking or running on the treadmill. At regular intervals the speed of the treadmill is increased thus increasing the difficulty of the bruce protocol stress test. You can use the railings of the treadmill for support but it is better not to apply too much pressure on them or it can jeopardise the results. Your heartbeat rate and blood pressure level is continuously measured since the time you begin to exercise. The exercise part goes on for 7 minutes on an average. The bruce protocol stress test stops when you are totally exhausted. The final ratings show the change from your heart being at resting position to coming back to its resting position. Any kind of dysfunction of blockage in your heart is registered in the ECG machine.

Why is Bruce Protocol Stress Test Widely Performed?

This bruce protocol stress test is the most common test used to find out the maximum oxygen intake by a person or to determine any kind of heart condition. VO2 max or maximal oxygen uptake of a sportsperson determines how fit he or she is and how well he or she can perform. VO2 level determines the athlete’s performance of a sustained exercise and explains his or her aerobic endurance. When the rate of exercising is at its height, the amount of oxygen that is being consumed by the person can be determined by bruce protocol stress test. The level of the exercise on the treadmill increases every 3 minutes, which means the test gets difficult every 3 minutes. The person has to undergo the increasing amount of pressure. Even though there is no direct machine measuring the exact amount of inhaled and exhaled oxygen, the total amount of time the athlete spends on the treadmill determines how much oxygen the person is using up. The test continues until the athlete is exhausted. During the bruce protocol stress test; the heartbeat rate, the blood pressure level and the level of perceived exertion is noted. This bruce protocol stress test is performed by the athlete to check his or her performance level but only when suggested by his or her physician.

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 5, 2019

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