A stress echocardiogram, also called a stress echo can reveal various cardiovascular problems such as mitral valve prolapse, atrial fibrillation, tachycardia (fast heart rate), and bradycardia (slow heart rate). During this test, you will walk on a treadmill at various speeds and inclines, and then immediately following the treadmill test, you will lie on a table and undergo an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of your heart.
Stress testing coupled with an echocardiogram can also help your cardiologist diagnose causes of chest pain and reveal the presence of fluid around your heart known as a pericardial effusion. Here are some things to expect before your stress testing and echocardiography examinations and during your procedures.
Before Your Stress Testing And Echocardiography Examination
While there is no special preparation needed before your stress echo such as fasting, your doctor may ask you to hold certain medications a day or so prior to your test. For example, certain medications such as beta blockers and antiarrhythmic drugs can skew the results of your stress echo. This is because these medications are used to lower blood pressure and regulate your heart rate.
If you do not hold these drugs prior to your test, abnormal heart rhythms and blood pressure problems may not show up. If, however, you normally take cardiac drugs such as nitroglycerine because you suffer from chest pain, your doctor may recommend that you still take it on the morning of your stress echo to prevent chest pain during your test.
During Your Stress Testing And Echocardiography Examination
Before getting on the treadmill, the technician or nurse will place electrodes on various parts of your body. The electrodes are attached to a monitor on the treadmill that assesses your heart rate and blood pressure. The monitor can also reveal if your heart is beating abnormally during the test. While the monitor may not show any abnormalities while you are leisurely walking on a flat surface, once the technician or nurse increases the speed and raises the incline of the treadmill, heart abnormalities, if present, may show up.
If you experience a dangerous arrhythmia or spike in blood pressure during your stress testing, you will be instructed to stop. After the treadmill stress test, you will then proceed to the echocardiography portion of the examination. Echocardiography is a painless ultrasound test and it does not use ionizing radiation, and because of this, is considered very safe.
If your cardiologist has recommended stress testing and an echocardiography examination, consider the above factors. When you are an informed patient, you will know what to expect during your treatment, which may help decrease your stress levels and improve your outcome.