Stress Echocardiography

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A stress echocardiography test, or sometimes known as a stress echo, is a combination of a stress test along with an echocardiogram of your heart. It’s a procedure that determines how well your heart and blood vessels are working. In a stress echocardiogram, ultrasound images of your heart are taken before and immediately after you walk on a treadmill. Stress echocardiography is non-invasive.

Your doctor uses a stress echocardiogram to:

  • Assess the wall motion of your heart in response to physical stress (on the treadmill).
  • To diagnose the presence or absence of coronary artery disease.

To prepare:

  • Avoid oily or greasy skin creams and lotions the day of the test, as the cream can interfere with the electrode-skin contact.
  • Take your usual medications unless otherwise directed by your physician.
  • You can eat, drink and take medications as you normally would.

What to wear:

  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes that are suitable for walking on a treadmill, and bring a water bottle.

What to expect:

  • A technologist (sonographer) will explain the test to you, take a brief medical history, and answer any questions you may have. Your blood pressure, heart rate, and electrocardiogram (ECG) will be monitored before, during, and after the test.
  • You will be asked to remove all upper body clothing, and to put on a gown with the opening to the front, and lie down on an examination table.
    You will be asked to sign a consent form.
  • Adhesive stickers called electrodes will be put onto your chest to capture an ECG. The sites where the electrodes are placed will be cleaned with alcohol and shaved if necessary. A mild abrasion may also be used to ensure a good quality ECG recording.
  • The sonographer will apply some gel to a small ultrasound probe called a transducer, they will then position it on your chest, and take several resting images of your heart. You may feel some discomfort from the transducer against your chest as the sonographer may need to apply some mild pressure to obtain the best images of your heart.
  • The sonographer may guide you to breath in and out at certain times and may ask you to roll onto your left side.
  • Your resting blood pressure, heart rate, and ECG will be recorded.
    Next, you will undergo an exercise stress test. To do this, you will be asked to walk on a treadmill. On the treadmill, the walk starts off slowly, then the speed and incline increases at set times.This usually takes about 10 minutes.
  • You will be monitored throughout the test. If a problem occurs, the technologist will stop the test immediately. It is very important for you to tell the technologist if you experience any chest pain, dizziness, unusual shortness of breath, or extreme fatigue.
  • Echo images of the heart will be recorded by the sonographer at separate times during exercise.
  • Your blood pressure, heart rate, and ECG will be monitored for three to five minutes after exercise.
  • It takes about 45 minutes to complete the test.
  • Your stress echocardiography test will be kept on file for comparison with future stress echocardiography tests.

After the procedure:

  • People can resume their normal daily activities, including driving, after a stress echocardiogram. The data will be reviewed by a cardiologist and the results will be reported to your doctor. If necessary, you may be referred for additional testing or a consultation with a physician.
  • A stress echocardiography test, or sometimes known as a “stress echo”, is a combination of a stress test along with an echocardiogram of your heart. Its main purpose is to assess the wall motion of your heart in response to physical stress (on the treadmill). Stress echocardiography is also non-invasive.