What is a Stress Echocardiogram?

A stress echocardiogram test combines an echocardiogram (cardiac ultrasound) of the heart and an electrocardiogram (EKG) with an exercise or pharmacological (medication) stress test.

The information produced shows the blood supply to your heart and how your heart pumps at rest and during stress such as exercising.

In an exercise stress echocardiogram you will be asked to walk on a treadmill where the speed and slope of the treadmill is increased at intervals.

In a pharmacological stress echocardiogram, a medication called Dobutamine is given to help increase your heart rate similar to walking on a treadmill.

It is determined at the beginning of your appointment whether a treadmill stress vs a pharmacologic stress test is best suited for you.

How long will the test take?

The test will take about one hour to complete

What happens during the test?

You must change into a hospital gown

Wear comfortable pants and shoes.

Electrode stickers and gel will be placed on your chest.

If you are having a pharmacologic stress echo, an IV will be started in your arm just before the test. This is a small tube that goes into your vein for fluids and medication.

Ultrasound pictures will be taken of your heart at various stages during the test

The nurse will check your pulse and blood pressure often during the test.

What are the common side effects that I may feel during the test?

During a pharmacologic stress echo, side effects are common and are short lived. You may feel:

anxious or shaky
short of breath
sick to your stomach
hot flashes
heart beating fast

If needed, the doctor or nurse will give you medication to control the side effects.

What are the risks of this test?

There is a very low risk of a serious reaction such as an arrhythmia, heart attack or death. You are closely monitored and every effort is made to prevent a reaction. Emergency equipment and trained staff are on hand to deal with any problems you may have.

It is important to tell your doctor or nurse if you have:

any allergies
sensitivity of Dobutamine, persantine, theophylline or sulfites

After the test

You will be sent home from the hospital after all side effects from any medication are gone (this will take at least 30 minutes).

If you are having a pharmacologic stress echo, someone must drive you home after the test.

Please note that your test may be cancelled if you do not have someone with you to drive you home.

The doctor who ordered the test will receive the results and review them with you.

How do I prepare for the test?

48 hours before your test:

no food containing caffeine is allowed
no coffee (regular or decaf), tea or cocoa
no soft drinks with the exception of 7Up
no over the counter medication
no Tylenol #1, #2, #3

Medications: 48 hours before your test:

Check with your doctor to see if you should take your pills that you normally take.

Do not stop taking your pills without speaking to the doctor who ordered your test.

Tell your doctor if you take the medications persantine or theophylline.

If you are diabetic and your test is in the afternoon:

Eat a light breakfast.

Do not take your morning insulin.

Bring your glucometer, insulin and a snack to eat after the test.

4 hours before your test:

Do not eat or drink (your stomach must be empty)

Please bring a list of your medications with you to your appointment.<

Outpatient information

If you have any of these side effects or other health concerns once you are home, please call:

Health Links, your family doctor or your nearest Emergency Department

Developed by: Lauren Toni BA, RDCS, WRHA Cardiac Sciences Program