Cardiopulmonary Exercise Test (CPET)

A cardiopulmonary exercise test measures how well the heart, lungs, and muscles work while your child exercises.

This test may be ordered for people with shortness of breath, chest discomfort, lack of energy, low blood oxygen levels, known heart or lung problems, or before an organ transplant. The test is done to find out how well the heart pumps blood and oxygen to muscles, how breathing changes during exercise, how well current medicines are working and to set a safe level of exercise for the patient.

Three breathing tests are done to measure baseline lung function. After the breathing tests are completed, small adhesive pads called electrodes are placed on the chest and attached to an electrocardiogram (EKG) machine. A pulse oximeter (a small plastic clip) is put on the ear or finger to monitor oxygen levels in the blood. Another clip is placed on the nose to keep air from leaking out during exercise. A mouthpiece is placed between the lips and teeth to monitor the air that is expired. Finally, a blood pressure cuff is placed on the arm so that pressures can be monitored during the test.

Your child pedals on a stationary bike or walks on a treadmill while breathing through the mouthpiece into the monitor. While on the bike, the resistance will be slowly and steadily increased as the patient pedals to make the work harder. While on the treadmill, the speed and the incline are also gradually increased to make walking more difficult.

While exercising, the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the exhaled air is measured. Heart rate and rhythm and blood pressure are recorded, and your child is constantly monitored for any complications. Emergency equipment and trained staff are on hand if complications occur. Staff should be alerted if your child experiences any chest discomfort, headache, nausea, anxiety, dizziness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, or tired legs.

The total test time takes about one-and-a-half hours from start to finish. The exercise portion lasts from 12-15 minutes. When the exercise portion is finished, blood pressure and EKG will be monitored while your child rests for 10 minutes.

In some cases, a doctor may want to examine your child's lungs after exercise, and perform a breathing test after exercise.


NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital

Pediatric Cardiopulmonary Exercise Laboratory: 212-305-4226