Exercise Stress Echocardiography (“Stress Echo”)
Exercise Stress Echocardiography (“Stress Echo”) is the technique of visualising
the heart with high frequency sound waves through a hand-held transducer
(ultrasound), before and after exercising on the treadmill.
Why does my doctor want me to have this test?
The procedure may be used to look for abnormalities of the heart muscle or valves,
but is most commonly used to diagnose coronary artery disease (blocked arteries)
and angina. Stress Echo is also often used to investigate the cause of
breathlessness with physical activity.
How do I prepare for the test?
The procedure takes approximately 60 minutes. You will be required to wear
clothing and footwear suitable for exercise. You will be required to remove the
clothing from your upper body. A gown will be provided for your comfort. Do not
drink beverages containing caffeine (including Tea/Coffee/Cola/Energy drinks) on
the day of you test. You should avoid a heavy meal for at least 3 hours before the
procedure. Do not smoke 3 hours prior to the test.
Please bring an up to date list of your medications to the appointment (or a bag with all your medications in it). Certain medications that affect your heart may need to be suspended for 24 hours before the test. Please discuss this with your Doctor, or call the Clinic if you are unsure.
How is the test done?
Electrode dots are placed on your skin. Chest hair may need to be shaved off a small area. You will be asked to lie down on the examination bench. The hand-held transducer will be applied to the chest wall with ultrasound gel. The images of your heart will be displayed on the monitor, and the sound of the blood flow may be heard.
You will then need to walk on the treadmill to increase the stress on your heart. The treadmill will increase in speed and slope every few minutes, to achieve your maximal workload. At that point, the treadmill will be stopped, and it is important to lie back down on the examination bench as quickly as possible. This is to visualise the heart under maximal workload. Any abnormalities of the blood pressure, ECG tracings and echo images will be recorded. You should also report any symptoms you experience to the supervising staff. You may ask to stop the test at any time.
Is the test dangerous?
No x-rays are used, and the echo is similar to foetal ultrasound performed during pregnancy.
You may encounter some side effects with the stress test component, such as;
Shortness of breath
Minor chest discomfort
Serious complications such as heart attack, life-threatening heart rhythm disturbances, need for admission to hospital or death are rare.
You will be monitored closely by the medical team during your test. You may need to wait for some time after the test before driving, if you feel unwell.
What happens after the test?
The results of the Stress Echo will be made available to your referring doctor. Urgent problems will be communicated directly by telephone.