What is a Stress echocardiogram?
Exercise stress echocardiography is a test to evaluate whether you have significant narrowings in your heart arteries.
About Exercise Stress Echocardiogram?
An exercise stress echocardiogram (stress echo) is a test which involves examination of your heart before and after exercise. This test is used to evaluate heart function when the heart muscle is put under strain through exercise. This test involves walking on a treadmill to exercise the heart and then performing an ultrasound of the heart to view images of how the heart has responded to that exercise.
How do I prepare?
You will be required to fast for 2 hours prior to the test and wear comfortable walking shoes. Ladies are encouraged to wear a "Top and Bottom separates". A disposable gown will be available.
What should I expect?
The sonographer will explain the test to you and initially perform an ECG to get a baseline reading. You will remain hooked up to the ECG for the duration of the test. A baseline echocardiogram is also performed to record images of the heart at rest to be used as a comparative tool post stress echocardiogram. An ultrasound gel is applied to the chest to aid movement of the transducer over the skin. This may be cold when first applied. Increased pressure when applying the transducer may be needed to obtain good images. If this becomes uncomfortable, please let your technician know.
During this stage, a Cardiologist will be present in the room. You will be asked to walk on a treadmill, while hooked up to the ECG machine. The treadmill section of the test is run according to preset standardised protocols depending on the abilities of the patient and the assessment by the Cardiologist.
The speed and slope of the treadmill will increase every 1-3 minutes according to your fitness level and your heart rate response under the direct supervision by the Cardiologist. During the test your blood pressure and ECG will be monitored regularly and noted by the Cardiologist and Sonographer. You will be advised to let the Cardiologist or Sonographer know should you have any symptoms of chest pain or excessive breathlessness.
The test will be terminated when the Cardiologist determines you have reached your peak exercise capacity or you exhibit any symptoms of chest pain or increased breathlessness. You will be directed back to the exam bed as quickly as possible so that another echocardiogram can be performed to get images of the heart while it is still responding to the effects of exercise. These images will give the Cardiologist information about how your heart functions under increased strain. These images can visualise whether the heart is pumping blood efficiently, whether the valves are working correctly, whether the chambers are performing as they should and whether any symptoms are due to your heart not working as it should. After this second ultrasound, a third and final echocardiogram is performed after you have had a few minutes to rest.
A report will be generated by the Cardiologist and the Sonographer, which will then be sent electronically to your referring Doctor. If your referring Doctor has requested a consultation post testing, you will be seen immediately after by the Cardiologist to discuss your results and any treatment that may be required and a letter documenting this consultation will be sent electronically to your referring Doctor.
Risks to me
Both Stress Echocardiograms and Stress Tests are low-risk procedures. They are both non-invasive tests.
The most common occur only occur in 3:1,000 people and include:
Chest pain which can be treated by stopping the test and administering medication.
Development of fluid in the lungs which will result in the cessation of the test and administration of medication.
An abnormal heart beat or “arrhythmia” which may be treated by stopping the test and may also be treated with or without medication.
There is a risk of heart attack in 1:2,500 people and a risk of death in 1:10,000 people.
Please advise our staff prior to the test if you have a history of previous/recent heart attack, aortic dissection, recent fluid or clots in the lungs, severe heart valve disease, heart arrhythmias, palpitations, or recent increase in chest pain.
You will also be asked to provide a list of your medications so that these can be noted prior to the test.