Skip to main content

Cardiopulmonary Exercise Testing


Cardiopulmonary exercise testing measures:

  • How well your child’s heart, lungs and muscles work together during exercise
  • Your child’s fitness level
  • How much exercise your child can do

The test is done on a stationary bike or treadmill, depending on the child’s age, size and ability.

Cardiopulmonary exercise testing is available on the hospital’s main campus, in the Phoenix Children’s Heart Center. This type of advanced testing is highly specialized, and very few pediatric hospitals offer it. Test results can help doctors diagnose your child’s condition and help guide the treatment plan.

Who needs cardiopulmonary exercise testing?

Your child’s doctor may recommend this test if your child has a:

  • Chronic heart condition
  • Chronic lung condition
  • Chest wall deformity

Our team can do the test on children as young as 4 years old. But most children who have this test are at least 9 years old.

What happens during cardiopulmonary exercise testing?

An exercise physiologist conducts the test, and other staff members may be in the room to help. A pediatric cardiologist is nearby in case questions or concerns arise.

Your child will wear a few devices during the test to tell how exercise is affecting them. These can include:

  • Small stickers on the chest to watch heart activity
  • A small sensor on the finger or forehead to measure oxygen levels in the blood
  • A blood pressure cuff on the arm or leg to check blood pressure
  • A padded nose clip and mouthpiece or a breathing mask to monitor breathing and how well oxygen goes in and out of the lungs

Your child will walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike for about 15 minutes. The resistance level on the equipment will increase the longer your child exercises. You can expect your child to be breathing hard during this test — it’s a workout! Once the exercise portion ends, your child will have time to rest.

The care team will monitor your child carefully during and after the test. They will keep your child safe at all times. If your child has an implanted medical device, such as a pacemaker or defibrillator, we will ensure that a representative from the device manufacturer is present during the test.

Your child’s visit will last about one hour.

Preparing for the Test

Your child should:

  • Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing and closed-toe gym shoes.
  • Hydrate by drinking water or other clear liquids before the test.
  • Eat a light snack before testing to prevent low blood sugar. (but avoid having a large meal two to three hours before the test.)

If your child uses an inhaler, be sure to bring it with you.

After the Test

The care team will share test results with your child’s referring physician, along with any treatment recommendations.

Share this page