23 May 2016 / 4:27 pm
A stress echocardiogram is an ultrasound investigation of the heart before, during and after a heart stress test. This is particularly useful to identify if parts of the heart do not receive enough blood supply causing them to contract abnormally. The heart stress test can either be with drugs (such as dobutamine) or with gentle exercise on a bicycle (exercise test).
The test is performed in a private room as you will need to take off the clothes from your upper body. You are welcome to bring along a friend or relative who can sit in with you. You will need to lie on a couch and a small probe will be placed on your chest with lubricating jelly to improve the picture quality. A contrast agent is sometimes injected into this to improve image quality.
A detailed stress echocardiogram usually takes up to hour to acquire. The report can then take up to an hour to generate.
The ultrasound is harmless. The contrast agent is safe and allergic reactions are uncommon. Stress echocardiography is usually well tolerated. Some patients can have mild symptoms during the test (such as palpitation, tremor, light headed sensations). Serious complications are uncommon (1 in every 330 patients) and include heart rhythm problems, heart attack and low blood pressure.
After the procedure we will be asked to stay in the waiting area for 30 minutes whilst any infused drugs are cleared by the body. The stress echocardiogram will then be analysed and a report generated, usually within seven days.