Stress Echocardiogram

What is a stress echocardiogram?

A stress echocardiogram is a test that shows how your heart muscle works when your heart is stressed with exercise or with medicine. The test uses sound waves (ultrasound) to create a moving picture of the heart muscle and heart valves.

When is it used?

Many people with heart problems have no symptoms when they are resting. Stressing the heart causes changes that can be seen on the echocardiogram. Stress echocardiograms help your healthcare provider know if you need more tests and treatment.

How do I prepare?

  • You may or may not need to take your regular medicines the day of the procedure. Some medicines may keep your heart rate from increasing to the level needed for the test. Tell your healthcare provider about all medicines and supplements that you take. Ask your provider if you need to avoid taking any medicine or supplements before the procedure.
  • Your healthcare provider will tell you when to stop eating and drinking before the procedure.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you have any food or medicine allergies.
  • Follow any other instructions your healthcare provider gives you.
  • On the day of your test, wear comfortable clothing and shoes.
  • Ask any questions you have before the procedure. You should understand what your healthcare provider is going to do. You have the right to make decisions about your healthcare and to give permission for any tests or procedures.

What happens during the procedure?

The test lasts 30 to 60 minutes. It can be done in your healthcare provider’s office, a clinic, or hospital. Small sticky patches or suction cups are put on your chest for an ECG (also called an EKG or electrocardiogram), which measures and records your heartbeat.

Your healthcare provider or a technologist will also watch your blood pressure while the echocardiogram is being done.

Your healthcare provider may ask you to walk on a treadmill for the echocardiogram. The treadmill will make you walk faster or harder every couple of minutes. Or medicine may be used if you have a physical problem that keeps you from doing the exercise. When medicine is used, you lie on a table and the medicine is slowly dripped into your vein. The amount of medicine is increased every 3 minutes.

Your healthcare provider will stop the test when a target heart rate, based on your age, is reached. The test will be stopped earlier if:

  • Your ECG or blood pressure changes a lot.
  • Your heart rhythm becomes abnormal.
  • You have chest pain.
  • You get too tired to keep going if you are walking on the treadmill.

What happens after the procedure?

Usually, you can go home soon after the test.

Ask your healthcare provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.

What are the risks?

Every procedure or treatment has risks. Some possible risks of this test include:

  • You may have an abnormal heart rhythm during the test.
  • You may have nausea, low blood pressure, or chest pain caused by the medicine used to stress your heart.

Ask your healthcare provider how these risks apply to you. Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-06-10
Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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