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What Is Stress Echocardiogram Test?
An echocardiogram uses high-frequency sound waves to capture images of the heart muscle, the heart valves, and the large blood vessels that carry blood to and from your heart. A stress echo test gathers data about your heart both at rest and when it is responding to the stress of increased heart rate and blood pressure. This provides us with information about your cardiac system, including:
  • its size
  • its shape
  • its efficiency
Most commonly, a motorized treadmill or a stationary bicycle is used for the part of procedure that involves the exercise.

This test, called the Stress Echocardiogram Test, will help us evaluate your cardiac condition related to:
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Decreased supply of blood and oxygen to the heart
  • Amount of work the heart can perform before symptoms develop
  • Amount of time it takes the heart to recover after exercise
  • Your overall level of cardiovascular conditioning
  • Exercise target heart rate (THR)

What Preparation Is Needed?
Please follow these precautions before coming to a Stress Echo Test:
  • Do not eat or drink anything except water four hours prior to test.

  • No caffeine or smoking at least 4 hours prior to test.

  • If you are taking any medications, please consult us about the following:
    • How to adjust insulin and food intake prior to the test.

    • Whether to take your regular medications the morning of the test.

    • If you are taking Beta Blockers, ask us whether you can stop the medication for 72 hours before coming to a procedure (as recommended).

  • Do not apply lotions, oils or powders to the chest area.

  • Wear comfortable clothing (shorts or pants with shirt or blouse) and walking or jogging shoes.

How Stress Echo Test Is Performed?
A Stress Echo is a non-invasive procedure that combines two tests, a treadmill stress test and an echocardiogram. This procedure involves the following steps:
  1. An echocardiogram is done at rest prior to exercise and again at peak heart rate.

  2. This procedure uses sound waves to provide an image of your heart's internal structures, size and movement.

  3. This image is produced by moving a transducer over the chest area.

  4. Electrodes are placed on the chest to monitor the heart's rate and rhythm throughout the test.

  5. You will walk on a treadmill, gradually increasing the speed and incline.

  6. The patient will exercise from a few up to 15 minutes depending upon your level of ability.

  7. The test will be stopped if:
    • You achieve a target heart rate
    • You become too tired
    • You experience chest pain or shortness of breath
    • You feel dizzy
    • You develop unsteady gait
    • EKG shows alarming changes
    • You heartbeat becomes seriously irregular
    • Your blood pressure rises or falls beyond acceptable limits

  8. At the peak of exercise, we will stop the treadmill and ask you to lie down immediately on a bed so that a second echocardiogram can be taken to visualize the heart's motion with exercise.

  9. The test takes approximately 1.5 to 2 hours.

Risk Factors
The risk of the stress portion of the test is very small. It is similar to what you would expect from any strenuous form of exercise such as:
  • jogging in your neighborhood
  • running up a flight of stairs

We will be with you to manage the rare complications like:
  • sustained irregular heartbeat
  • unrelieved chest pain
  • heart attack

Useful Links
  1. Exercise Stress Test
    This article provides a basic level introduction into a different types of stress tests. It is well structured, organized into practical categories such as purpose, preparation, advantages/disadvantages, etc. The article also contains helpful illustrations.

  2. Harvard Medical School: Exercise Stress Test
    The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide provides the patients with basic information on the procedure. It discusses the responsibilities of the patient, the risks that the test entails and more.
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