This information will help you prepare for your stress echocardiogram.

An echocardiogram, or “echo,” is a test that tells your doctor about the structure and function of your heart. Ultrasound (high-frequency sound waves) is used to take pictures of your heart. The test lets your doctor know:

  • How well your heart valves are working
  • How well your heart muscle is moving
  • How your blood is flowing
  • The size of the 4 chambers of your heart

This test can give your doctor information about your coronary arteries. These are the blood vessels that often become narrow because of high cholesterol.

If your heart's structure or function is abnormal, you may be experiencing symptoms. These can be shortness of breath, chest pain, or both. However, these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions. An echo can help your doctor diagnose the cause of these symptoms.

Before Your Procedure

Ask your doctor about taking any medications before your stress echo. If you have been told to take a medication, take it with a sip of water.

If you have diabetes, ask your doctor or diabetes nurse educator how to take your medication and food on the day of the procedure.

Eating and drinking

  • Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your procedure. If your procedure is after noon, you may eat a light breakfast 6 hours before the procedure (e.g., a slice of toast or a bowl of cereal).
  • Do not drink anything with caffeine or alcohol and do not smoke for 24 hours prior to your procedure.

On the day of your procedure, wear a top that is easy to remove; you will need to take it off to put on a hospital gown. You can keep your pants or skirt on during the procedure. Wear rubber-soled shoes or bring them with you to your procedure.

During Your Procedure

There are 4 steps in this procedure. You will have:

  1. An electrocardiogram (EKG)
  2. An echo
  3. Another EKG while you walk on a treadmill
  4. The stress echo

For your stress echo, you will lie on an exam table on your left side. Your technician will put a gel on your chest. The gel conducts the signals from your heart. Your technician will also place a device called a “transducer” in different positions on your chest. The transducer will record the sound waves of your heart. These will appear as pictures on an ultrasound screen.

You may have mild discomfort from the pressure of the transducer.

The entire procedure will take about 90 minutes. Your doctor should have the results of your echo 4 days after the procedure.