A stress echo combines an echocardiogram with a stress test. It allows your doctor to learn how well your heart works when it is made to beat faster and harder. There are two types of stress echo’s: Exercise Stress Echo and Dobutamine Stress Echo.
A resting echo will first be performed before your stress test to get baseline or resting images of your heart. Additional echo images are taken during or immediately after your stress test. Your cardiologist will then compare the images side by side.
Typically you will be stressed on a treadmill to raise your heart rate and stress your heart. To provide the most accurate test, your heart rate must reach a target rate that is determined by your age. Shortly after this peak is reached, the ultrasound technologist will have you quickly lie on a table and scan your heart with the ultrasound machine. Your cardiologist will then compare the rest and stress images side by side.
If you are unable to exercise adequately, Dobutamine, a drug that mimics the effect of exercise on the heart, is injected in place of exercise. The Dobutamine is injected slowly into a vein in your arm. The drug causes your heart to pump faster and harder as if you were exercising. Additional echo images are taken during and after the Dobutamine infusion. Your cardiologist will then compare the rest and stress images side by side.
Normally, all areas of the heart muscle pump harder during stress. However, if an area of the heart does not pump as well as it should with exercise or with Dobutamine, this often indicates that it is not receiving enough blood because of a narrowed or blocked artery. Treatment options can be discussed with your cardiologist if there are abnormalities found during your test.