Stress Echocardiogram

This information explains what a stress echocardiogram is and what to expect during your procedure.  

An echocardiogram, or “echo,” is a procedure that uses ultrasound to look at the structure and function of your heart. Ultrasound uses sound waves to create pictures of your heart. Your echo 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 procedure 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. Your 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 your 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 before your procedure.
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During 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.

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

  1. An electrocardiogram (EKG). An electrocardiogram is a test that records your heart’s electrical activity. You will also have your blood pressure measured.
  2. A resting echo. In a resting 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.
  3. Another EKG and blood pressure measurement while you walk on a treadmill.
  4. The stress echo. The stress echo done the same way as the resting echo, except it is done after you have raised your heart rate on the treadmill. 

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 24 hours after your procedure.

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