Medical Professionals: Question about a heart test

My sister-in-law is in really bad shape. She called 911 and was taken to the hospital Wednesday because she couldn’t breathe. She’s severly asthmatic and this, along with other ailments, put her in the hospital.

The immediate diagnoses are: COPD, alcoholism, arthritis, morbid obesity and a non-descript heart problem. They’re trying to get more information on the heart issue. She said that they have to perform a drug-induced stress test so they can speed up her heart (which she says is already racing from the multiple drugs she’s taking for the lung issues).

Question 1: I would think this would put her at risk for a heart attack! Can someone explain the benefit of this test?

The other thing they’re doing is pressing on her chest real hard so they can get a good picture of her heart. She said she had this once before and it hurt like hell, so she’s refusing these heart tests.

Question 2: I don’t understand this one at all. Can someone explain it and also, if you refuse it, is there an alternative test they can run?

Thanks. This doesn’t seem to me to be asking for advice. If a mod interprets it as such, sorry, man…

The first test sounds like a “persantine/thallium scan” or a so-called “Sestamibi scan”. In both instances, the concept behind the test is to see if there are areas of the heart muscle which are not receiving an adequate blood supply. This is done by injecting a radioactive “tracer” which, normally, should be taken up by the heart (meaning that an area of inadequate blood supply would show up as a “cold spot” on the scan, i.e. a spot where none of the tracer was delivered).

Doing the above tests during exercise increases their ability to pick up areas of inadequate blood supply. If someone is unable to exercise, they are given an injection of a substance (often persantine) which indirectly causes the heart to have to work harder, as if the person really was exercising.

The test that involves pressing on the chest sounds like an echocardiogram - a relatively simple, and absolutely safe test. If a person is obese, though, the technician may have to press the “microphone” against the chest with a fair amount of force (it’s hard for sound waves to penetrate a lot of fat).

Make sense?

Here’s a sample link.

Thanks for your response. She made it sound like they were going to perform pseudo-CPR or stand on her or something. This sounds like breeze, compared to some tests, like the evil butt probe or the one where they run a wire up to your brain while you’re awake! I shall chastise her soundly. Thanks again.