What is an Echocardiogram Stress Test?
An Echocardiogram Stress Test (Stress Echo) is a test that combines an ultrasound study of the heart with a stress test. A Stress Echo looks at how the heart functions when it is made to work harder. The Stress Echo is identical to the stress exercise test, except, an Echocardiogram is performed before and after you exercise.
The Stress Echo is especially useful in diagnosing coronary heart disease and the presence of blockages in the coronary arteries (the vessels that supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle).
What does the test show?
An Echocardiogram stress test is performed to evaluate the function of your heart, mainly your left ventricle (main pumping chamber) when the heart is under stress. This test can help evaluate the following:
- Your risk for coronary artery disease.
- If the symptoms you are experiencing (i.e., chest pain or pressure, shortness of breath, unexplained fatigue, palpitations, lightheadedness, etc.) are caused by a blockage to your heart or other heart conditions.
- It can help detect heart problems that may not be present at rest.
- It is used for cardiac clearance before surgery or other procedure.
- If you have already been diagnosed with coronary heart disease, a stress test may enable the doctor to estimate the severity of the blockages.
- If you have just undergone balloon angioplasty or bypass surgery, a stress test can help monitor the success of the procedure as well as determine an appropriate rehabilitation program for you.
Normally, all areas of the heart muscle pump more vigorously during exercise. If an area of the heart muscle does not pump as it should with exercise, this often indicates that it is not receiving enough blood because of a blocked or narrowed artery. The Stress Echo shows areas of the heart muscle that do not receive an adequate blood supply. However, it does not provide images of the actual coronary arteries.
How do I prepare for the test?
- Do not eat or drink for 2 hours prior to the test. This will help prevent the possibility of nausea and vomiting which may accompany vigorous exercise after eating. If you are diabetic or need to eat/drink with your medication, get special instructions from your doctor.
- Avoid any strenuous physical activity on the day of the test because you will need to exert yourself maximally.
- No smoking 2 hours prior to the test. Smoking may interfere with the test results.
- Wear loose and comfortable clothing and shoes that are suitable for exercise; women will wear a hospital gown and men will be asked to exercise bare-chested.
- Do not wear oils or lotions before your test. Small sticky patches (electrodes) will need to stick to your chest.
- Take your medications as prescribed unless your doctor has given you special instructions.
Where is the test performed?
Generally done in the Cardiovascular Institute Echocardiography lab.
How long does this test take?
Approximately 30 - 45 minutes.