Stress Echocardiogram

A stress echocardiogram, also known as an “echo,” is a test that records images of your heart before and after exercise. By comparing the images, your doctor can tell whether your heart is getting enough blood to meet its increased demand for oxygen. This type of echocardiogram was created as an alternative to a myocardial perfusion imaging scan, also known as a nuclear stress test.

The stress echo allows cardiologists to:

  • Check the function of the heart valves and chambers
  • Determine the presence of heart disease, coronary artery disease and congenital heart disease
  • Monitor the progress of a treatment

Before your test

  • Tell your doctor what medicines you take and any allergies you may have. If you are taking blood pressure medicines, ask your doctor if he wants you to continue or discontinue taking them before your test.
  • Don’t eat, drink, smoke or have any caffeine for six hours before the test.
  • Wear comfortable clothing and walking shoes.
  • Allow at least one to two hours for testing.

During the test

Your stress echocardiogram will be divided into three parts. First, you will be asked to lie on your left side. A transducer (a small device that produces sound waves) and gel are placed on your chest to record images of your heart. This is the resting echo and is used as a baseline test.

Next, several electrodes will be placed on your chest and you will be outfitted with a blood pressure cuff. Some men may need to have areas of their chest hair trimmed to ensure that the electrodes will stay in place and make good contact. You will be asked to begin walking on a treadmill slowly at first with the speed and incline increasing gradually in order to achieve optimum heart rate. Finally, when your target heart rate is reached, the treadmill will be stopped and a second echo will be performed and images recorded.

After the test

  • You can resume your normal activity.
  • Your physician will receive the results after the cardiologist reviews them. Be sure to keep your follow-up appointment with your doctor to discuss the results.
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