The Stress Echo: What To Expect

A comprehensive cardiac workup may include stress echocardiography testing. Also known as a "stress echo," this diagnostic procedure is actually the combination of a cardiac stress test and an echocardiogram. The stress echo is considered a very safe test and there is no preparation needed prior to the procedure. If, however, you are taking medications such as beta-blockers to help control a cardiac arrhythmia or to manage your blood pressure, your cardiologist may ask you to hold your morning dose because these medications may affect your test results.

The Stress Testing Component

The initial part of your stress echo will be the cardiac stress test. For this procedure, the healthcare provider will place electrodes on various parts of your body that are attached to a special computerized treadmill. You will walk on the treadmill at various speeds and inclines while the healthcare provider monitors your vital signs and cardiac status by looking at the monitor on the treadmill.

The purpose of walking on the treadmill is to get your heart rate up so that it can be assessed during physical activity. Once your heart rate reaches a certain level, you will get off of the treadmill and lie down on an examination table where the next phase of your test, the echocardiogram, will take place. 

The Echocardiogram Component

Echocardiography is an ultrasound of the heart and its surrounding structures. It uses soundwaves to capture moving, real-time images of the cardiovascular system. This test helps your cardiologist evaluate the status of your heart health and it is considered very safe because no ionizing radiation is used during the procedure.

Once you are on the examination table, you will lie on your left side. The technician will place electrodes on your chest and then a special gel will be applied to an instrument known as a transducer, which will be moved around your chest area, abdomen, and neck.

The technician may ask you to either shift positions or hold your breath at certain intervals so that they can capture better quality images. While the test is not painful, the sonographer may need to mildly press the transducer against your body at certain times during the examination. 

To learn more about the benefits of a stress echo examination, talk to your cardiologist. This non-invasive and safe test can reveal cardiac abnormalities in their early stages to help prevent further progression of heart disease so that you can enjoy an excellent prognosis. 

Contact a cardiology office, such as Alpert Zales & Castro Pediatric Cardiology, for more information.