How to Get a CPET (maybe)

Artwork: Robin Mead

The CPET is a cardiopulmonary exercise test that is used sometimes used to document impairments in people with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

It can also be called a “metabolic/expired air test” or a “V02 max test” or a “metabolic exercise test” or “cardiopulmonary exercise testing.”

This page of Resources from The Workwell Foundation explains how a CPET works, along with medical and scientific information about CPETs and ME.

Why Take a CPET?

The CPET test is most commonly used by people applying for private disability or disability through their employer’s insurance. It is often recommended by lawyers who specialize in employment disability cases.

The CPET is sometimes used by people applying for Social Security disability, though most of our readers who were approved for Social Security Disability for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome do not report taking this test.

The CPET is also sometimes taken by people interested in learning more about their health limitations or seeking validation of their physical impairments. Some people find the CPET report is useful in helping friends, families, and local doctors understand the severity of their illness and take their condition more seriously.

Since the CPET can be expensive, far away, and sometimes a health risk, most ME patients do not take a CPET.

Is This Test Safe?

Some people are very happy with their CPET test and feel it was well worth doing. Other people report health damage from the test. This damage can be short term or ongoing. Some of our readers report that they were not warned ahead of time about the health risks. Before going forward, you may find it helpful to read some Real Life Stories from People Who Had CPETs

Will I Get Approved for Disability? 

Maybe. There is a common misconception that a two-day CPET is an “automatic approval” for disability. This is not always true. Results from a CPET test can be extremely helpful in some disability cases. However, a CPET test is not a guaranteed or automatic approval.

Long Term Disability / Private Disability  – If you are applying for LTD private disability, many people report that 2-day CPET test results were very significant and helpful in their cases. Some LTD companies request to see the raw data from CPET testing. Lawyers who specialize in LTD and ME often recommend the 2-day version of the CPET to their clients.

Social Security – If you are applying for Social Security, this test may be very helpful, but it is important to keep in mind that Social Security will be considering your entire case file. The decision will not be made based on one test result. It is also important to be aware that most two-day CPETS are not performed or signed by an Acceptable Medical Source.  In some cases, Social Security may chose to disregard CPET test results for this reason. If you can get a letter from your doctor supporting the CPET test results, this will solve this problem. Learn more about how to get a co-sign from your doctor.

One Day and Two Day CPETS

There are two kinds of CPETs: One day or two day. Both have distinct advantages and disadvantages.

💮 One-day CPET is a test you may be able to get locally from a cardiologist or an exercise physiologist. This test will not provide analysis of your disability or condition, but it can provide some basic data if your test results are abnormal. Because it is only one day, it will not measure Post Exertional Malaise. It may be covered by insurance. The Pros and Cons of a One Day CPET

💮 Two-day CPETs are run by the Workwell Foundation in California and by Betsy Keller in Ithaca New York. This test will include an excellent, detailed report evaluating your impairments and limitations based on the CPET results. See below for a sample report. Because it is two days, it can measure post exertional malaise. It is not covered by insurance. The Pros and Cons of a Two-Day CPET

💮 Other options: Lavender got a one day CPET and worked with a local practitioner to create a more detailed report: Lavender Solves the Problem of the CPET

💮 Update: We have reports from readers that the CPET is now also offered by Dr. Laura Black at Hunter Hopkins Center in North Carolina. Previously, Hunter Hopkins offered a shorter one-day CPET, so we do not know if this is a complete 2-day test. We have also gotten reports that some form of CPET is being offered by TCR Sport Lab in Calgary Alberta. Please comment below if you have more information.

Samples 2-Day CPET Reports

💮 Sample report from Workwell Foundation. 

💮 Second sample report from Workwell Foundation (scroll to bottom)

Learn More

💮  There are many options for other kinds of medical tests: How to Get Tested for ME and CFS

💮 Great article by Caroline Christian: describing the ins and outs of the CPET, including information for both doctors and patients and a sample CPET report: Decoding the 2-Day CPET

💮 Great detailed article from Jennie Spotila about her CPET test: Exercise Testing and Using a Heart Rate Monitor

💮 The Workwell Foundation, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) and Fibromyalgia

💮 How Physical Therapists are Getting it About Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

💮 The Workwell Foundation Resource Page for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome


2 thoughts on “How to Get a CPET (maybe)”

  1. Dr. Black is my CFS doctor. She WILL offer a 2 day CPET if she feels that your original one day exam does not prove your level of disability. However, she does find 90% of the time her patients “fail” the CPET the first go around and there is no need for a second day of testing.


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