Stress Testing

Exercise Stress Echo

Stress echo tests are used to diagnose the presence of narrowing of the coronary arteries. The exercise stress echo combines the echocardiogram or an electrocardiogram (EKG) with a treadmill exercise test. The EKG tells about the electrical health of the heart, while the Echocardiogram tells the structural health of the heart and its valves. This test will let your doctor know whether your heart is getting enough blood to supply oxygen to the heart muscle.

 Preparing for your Procedure:

  • Do not eat or drink anything for at least 4 hours before the test.
  • Ask your physician if you should take your usual medications.
  • Wear a two-piece out-fit and comfortable shoes, such as tennis shoes. Do not wear open-toed shoes such as sandals, slides, etc.
  • Bring the order for your procedure (paperwork from your physician) with you to the hospital.
  • Please bring your medications to the hospital.
  • Allow 30 minutes to one hour for your visit with us. The procedure itself takes 15 minutes on average.

 When You Arrive:

  • Check in at registration on the first floor just inside the main entrance.
  • Give your order for procedure (in the paperwork from your physician) to the registration clerk.
  • The registration clerk will ask you a few questions in order to update your information in the computer. Be sure to bring your insurance card with you if you have one.
  • The registration clerk will give you directions on how to get to the cardiology department on 2nd floor.

During the Procedure:

  • You will be asked to sign a consent form. Staff will be available to explain the procedure or answer any questions you may have.
  • You will be asked questions regarding your medical history.
  • You will be asked to remove your clothing from the waist-up and put on a gown.
  • An echo technician will take pictures of your heart at rest by using ultrasound.
  • Sticky patches (electrodes) will be attached to the chest for the EKG.
  • A blood pressure and EKG will be completed with you lying on your back and standing.
  • Next, you will be asked to walk on a treadmill (to increase your heart rate).
  • Blood pressures and EKG’s will be taken while on the treadmill.
  • The treadmill will start slowly and will gradually increase in speed and incline.
  • Once your target heart rate is obtained (based on your age), you will be asked to quickly return to the echo bed and lie on your back (as you were before you exercised).
  • The echo technician will record a second set of pictures of your heart immediately following exercise.

Dobutamine Stress Test

If you are unable to exercise, a Dobutamine stress echocardiogram will be performed. Dobutamine is an IV medication that will increase your heart rate just as if you were exercising.

An EKG and blood pressure will be taken before beginning the medication. Like with the exercise stress echo, diagnostic images will be taken of your heart at rest. Once complete, the Dobutamine infusion will begin, taking images at low doses of the medication and increasing the infusion rate every three minutes until your target heart rate is obtained. The target heart rate is based on your age. If the heart rate is not sufficiently elevated with Dobutamine, a different medication called Atropine will be given to increase the heart rate.

Once the heart rate is sufficiently elevated, the medication will be stopped, but more images of the heart will be taken until it returns to rest. The physician will compare the images just as with the exercise stress echocardiogram.

Post Procedure:

  • The cardiologist will review all the images of before and after exercise (or medication induced exercise) to compare your heart’s function with and without exercise.
  • The cardiologist will be able to inform you of your test results at the conclusion of the study.
  • If no further immediate treatment is necessary, you will be discharged.

If you have any questions about this procedure or need to locate a cardiologist, you may Find a Physician or call our cardiology department at (252) 384-4703.