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George Eliot Hospital - NHS Trust
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Cardiopulmonary Exercise Testing (CPET)

Parent specialty: Cardio Respiratory Unit (CRU)

This is an ECG that is carried out whilst you are exercising to see if your heart changes. Your blood pressure will be measured at the same time.

What is CPET?
Cardiopulmonary Exercise Testing (CPET) is a non-invasive method used to assess the performance of the heart and lungs at rest and during exercise.

Who might need a CPET test?

  • Patients scheduled for major surgery

  • Patients taking part in a testing for the diagnosis of heart and lung disease

  • Patients in rehabilitation following a major illness


What does the test involve?
During the CPET test the patient will be required to perform mild exercise on an upright bicycle whilst breathing through a mouthpiece. Each breath will be measured to assess how the body is performing. The capacity and strength of the lungs is measured before and during exercise. The heart tracing (ECG) will also be recorded prior to, during and post exercise.

The CPET test will lasts for a total of 40 minutes; however the patient will only be required to exercise for approximately 10 minutes. The test requires your maximum effort to ensure the most reliable diagnostic information is obtained.

Please allow 60 minutes for the appointment.

How fit does a patient need to be to perform the test?
Many patients worry that because they do not participate in regular exercise, they may not be able to complete the test. CPET is not a maximal tolerance test and the assessments are applicable as much to athletes as to those who are elderly or unfit.

Are there any risks?
The risk for CPET is the same as for mild-moderate exercise. The number of patients who develop symptoms is low (1:1000), and it is the same as for exercise testing in cardiology. We will be monitoring the patient closely during the test, with continuous ECG, blood pressure and oxygen measurements. If they develop significant symptoms, the trained staff will stop the testing.

What information will be analysed?

  • Lung Function: Flow volume loops

  • Oxygen Consumption during exercise  (VO2 max)

  • Anaerobic Threshold

  • Heart performance during exercise

  • Blood gas measurement from blood sample taken from the earlobe

  • Exercise 12 lead ECG


What to wear for the test
Comfortable clothing suitable for light exercise, such as trainers and loose trousers are recommended.

Before the test
Before attending for your CPET, please:

  • Do not eat a heavy meal for 2 hours before

  • Do not take alcohol for 4 hours before

  • Do not take vigorous exercise for 30 minutes

  • Do not wear any tight clothing that may restrict your breathing

  • Do not smoke for at least 1 hour prior

  • Please continue to take all prescribed medicine as normal


If the patient has experienced any of the following they should contact the department:

  • Current or recent chest infection (within the last 3 weeks)

  • Recent eye, stomach or chest surgery

  • Heart attack or stroke within the last month

  • Attended Accident & Emergency in the last 2 to 3 days

  • Chest Pain on the Day of the test


The results will go to the patient's consultant who will discuss them at the next clinic visit. 

Useful links

Updated July 2017