Stress Echocardiography

What is stress echocardiography?

Stress echocardiography is a test that uses ultrasound imaging to demonstrate how well your heart muscle is working to pump blood to your body. It is primarily used to detect a decrease in blood flow to the heart from narrowing in the coronary arteries.

Why is this test performed?

Your doctor may order this test if you:
-Have new symptoms of angina or chest pain
-Have angina that is getting worse
-Have recently had a heart attack
-Pre operative before surgery or before beginning an exercise program
-Have a heart valve problem
The results of a stress test can determine:
-How well a treatment regimen is working
-The functionality of your heart
-A diagnosis of coronary artery disease
-Size of the heart

How is this test performed?

A sonographer will perform a resting echocardiogram first.
Most people will walk on a treadmill or pedal on an exercise bicycle. Gradually, you will be asked to walk or pedal faster with an added incline, similar to walking fast or jogging uphill.
Generally, you will need to walk or pedal for around five to fifteen minutes, depending on your level of fitness and your age. Vital signs are monitored throughout the entire procedure. Your physician will ask you to stop:
-When you heart is beating at the target rate
-When you are too fatigued to continue
-If you are having chest pain or a change in your blood pressure that is concerning to the provider administering the test
If you are not able to exercise, you will be given a drug called dobutamine through an intravenous line (IV). This type of medicine allows your heart to beat faster and harder, which simulates how the heart beats during exercise.
Additional echocardiogram images will be obtained while your heart rate is increasing, or when it reaches its peak. The images will show whether any parts of the heart muscle do not work as well when you heart is under stress, indicating whether or not the heart is getting enough blood oxygen due to narrowed or blocked arteries.

What should I expect during this test?

Electrodes will be placed on your chest, arms, and legs to record the heart's activity. A blood pressure cuff will placed on your arm to monitor your blood pressure during the test. The test is non-invasive and you should not feel any pain or discomfort.

How do I prepare for this test?

Before your stress echocardiogram, make sure to:
-Wear comfortable shoes and clothes
-Do not eat or drink for at least two hours prior to the test
-Avoid any caffeine the day of the test
Additionally, you will be asked to sign a consent form. You should consult your physician about taking your routine medications the day of the test. Some medications may interfere with test results.

Are there risks associated with stress echocardiography?

The risks of a stress echocardiogram are very low. Health care professionals will monitor your vital signs during the entire procedure.