The exercise electrocardiogram remains the noninvasive diagnostic test of first choice in patients with coronary artery disease. While new technology offers novel diagnostic possibilities and the ability to assess patients unsuitable for exercise testing, no other investigation has to this point furnished the quality of functional information and value-for-predictive accuracy of exercise electrocardiography. In this article, we describe how this central position in the work up of the cardiac patient has been secured through the evolution of the microprocessor. Particularly important has been its ability to harness and present large volumes of raw data, to derive and manipulate multivariate equations for diagnostic prediction, and to run 'expert' systems which can pool demographic and exercise test data, calculate risk scores, and prompt the nonexpert with advice on current management. These key features explain the pivotal role of the exercise test in the diagnostic, and increasingly prognostic, armoury of the cardiovascular clinician.
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View details for PubMedID 11048772