This test helps your physician determine how your heart functions when it is made to work harder by exercising. An echocardiogram, the ultrasound study of the heart, evaluates the heart’s size, how strongly it pumps blood, and how well the valves are working.
A stress echo test is useful to determine if there is a decreased supply of blood and oxygen to the heart muscle and how the heart works as a pump at rest as compared to peak exercise.
An echo technician will do a resting ultrasound of your heart while you are lying down on an exam table. You will lie on your back and on your left side.
A nurse or exercise physiologist will prep ten small areas on your chest and place electrodes (small, flat, sticky patches) on these areas. The electrodes are attached to an EKG monitor that charts your heart’s electrical activity during the test.
You will be lying down on an exam table while the technician performs a resting EKG and blood pressure.
You will then exercise on a treadmill for as long as you can reasonably go.The walking will be slow initially and up a slight incline. Every three minutes it will get a little higher and faster.
Please tell the technician immediately if you have chest pain, shortness of breath, or any other unusual symptoms at any time.
The stress lab staff will watch for any changes on the EKG monitor that suggest the test should be stopped. The testing area is supervised by a physician.
The echo technician will take ultrasound images of your heart at peak exercise. You will be asked to let the staff know when you are feeling like you should stop exercise. They will assist you abruptly back to the imaging table from the treadmill and obtain those images while the heart rate and blood pressure are still up from your exertion. For several minutes after exercise as the heart rate slows down, additional images will be obtained.
Your heart rate, blood pressure, and EKG will continue to be monitored until the levels are returning to baseline.
This test will take about an hour or an hour and a half to complete from start to finish but the actual exercise part is typically only a few minutes.