What is a stress echocardiogram?
A stress echocardiogram is a diagnostic test that is used to show the motion of the heart’s walls and the heart’s pumping capabilities when the body is working. The test is conducted both when the patient is at rest and then during exercise, usually on a treadmill or stationary bicycle. The test uses ultrasound imaging and enables the physicians at Premier Cardiology Consultants to see areas where there is a lack of blood flow. These areas may not show up on other diagnostic heart tests.
What can a stress echocardiogram help diagnose?
A stress echocardiogram can help our physicians:
- Determine how well your heart functions under stress
- Evaluate the overall function of your heart and its valves
- Determine the likelihood of the patient having coronary artery disease
- Evaluate the effectiveness of a cardiac treatment plan
stress echocardiogram Candidates
A member of our staff may order this test if you have chest pain that they think is due to coronary artery disease or myocardial infarction, a heart attack. If a patient is in rehabilitation, this test determines how much exercise their heart can tolerate as part of their recovery plan. Our team may also order this test to provide an update on the progress of various treatments, such as angioplasty, bypass grafting, and how your antiarrhythmic medications are working.
“Absolutely wonderful. Takes the time to explain everything, answer questions and doesn’t rush you out. Entire office staff is fabulous. Would recommend anyone who needs a cardiologist to this office.” – Kevin B.
How do I prepare for a stress echocardiogram?
Before the test patients should do the following to prepare:
- Don’t eat or drink anything for 3-4 hours before the test.
- Avoid all products that contain caffeine for 24 hours, including coffee, tea, colas and other soft drinks, chocolate, medications, and strawberries (they contain small amounts of caffeine).
- Avoid all decaffeinated or caffeine-free products for 24 hours, as they still contain traces of caffeine.
- Do not smoke the day of the test, as nicotine interferes with your heart rate.
- You shouldn’t take most heart medications, such as beta-blockers, before the test. We’ll discuss these with you.
- Our staff will tell you if other medications you may be taking are acceptable to take the day of your test or not.
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes suitable for walking.
The stress echocardiogram Procedure
Our team will begin by placing 10 small sticky patches called electrodes on your chest. These are connected by wire to an electrocardiograph (ECG). The ECG measures your heart’s electrical activity, especially the rate and regularity of your heartbeats. We’ll also take your blood pressure at various times throughout the test.
The first part of the test is when you are at rest. Patients will lie on their side as we perform a resting echocardiogram. This is an ultrasound of your heart. We use a device called a transducer for this which emits sound waves that create images of your heart.
Next, we want to see how your heart does under duress when exercising. For this, patients will either walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike for about 6-10 minutes, or until you feel tired. The goal is to raise your heart rate as high as possible, safely. As soon as you stop exercising, we perform another echocardiogram, now a stress echocardiogram. This will allow us to have images of your heart at rest and working under stress.
To finish the test, patients will simply cool down. We monitor your heart rate and blood pressure until they return to your normal, resting rates. The total appointment usually takes around 60 minutes, with the exercise time running between 6 and 12 minutes.
What happens after my stress echocardiogram?
Patients do not need to recover from this test. They can simply cool down after the exercise portion as we monitor their signs to make sure everything is fine. We will not let you leave until your levels return to their typical resting numbers.
Stress echocardiogram Results
After the test, you will meet with one of our physicians to go over your test results. If your results are normal and your heart is working properly, this test will show that your blood vessels are clear and not blocked.
If your results are not in the healthy or normal range that could mean one of two things. Either that your heart isn’t pumping blood effectively because there is a blockage in your blood vessels or there could be damage to your heart from a recent heart attack.
Results are also used for patients already receiving treatment for a previous heart attack, bypass, etc. Your results show the effectiveness of your treatment plan.
Risks of Stress Echocardiogram
Echocardiograms are considered to be very safe because, unlike X-rays, they do not use radiation. The test itself can be a risk if your heart is damaged, but we constantly monitor your heart rate, breathing rate, and other signs. Patients need to tell us if you are feeling chest pain, arm or jaw pain, if you are becoming dizzy, feeling lightheaded, or have other unusual symptoms. During the entire exam, we are right there with you so it is easy to stop the test and bring your levels back down. This is not a high-risk test and the results it delivers are well worth the minimal risk involved.
Schedule A Consultation
To learn more about stress echocardiogram or to schedule a consultation with our physicians please call 516-437-5600. You can change your life with a stress echocardiogram and you can take the first step by speaking with us at one of our New York offices.