Exercise Stress Echocardiogram

A non-invasive echocardiogram that is performed before and after exercise (walking and then running on the treadmill). It allows your cardiologist to assess how your heart functions in response to exercise stress. This investigation makes use of sound waves to produce moving images of your heart while it pumps blood around your body.

Stress echocardiogram procedure

Before the test, the cardiac sonographer will spread gel and applies sticky patches (electrodes) on your chest wall. The sonographer will then apply a device (known as a transducer) on the gel, aiming an ultrasound beam against your heart at different angles in order to obtain a collective set of moving images of your heart produced by the computer. The moving images will be displayed on the monitor which you can see “live”.

How do I prepare for the Stress Echocardiogram?

  • Please do not smoke 4 hours prior to the test.
  • Please avoid food containing caffeine such as chocolate, tea and coffee for 2hours prior to the test. You are not required to fast, but encouraged to hydrate yourself and have a light meal few hours prior to the test.
  • Please wear comfortable clothing and suitable shoes for brisk walking.

What can I expect during the Stress Echocardiogram?

  • The echo will be performed by a very experienced cardiac sonographer, and occasionally by your cardiologist if certain images are needed.
  • You will be asked to undress from the waist up, lie on the examining couch on your side (typically on your left).
  • Transducer gel and sticky patches (electrodes) will be applied on your chest.
  • Images of your heart will be taken before the exercise (resting images).
  • During the investigation, the lights will be dimmed, and your cardiac sonographer will press the transducer against your chest to obtain the relevant images.
  • The transducer may be pressed firmly against your chest wall (which may be uncomfortable at times), and you may be asked to take and hold your breath in order for your sonographer to obtain the best images.
  • During the exercise, you will be asked to start walking on the treadmill, which is programmed to get steeper and faster every 3 minutes. Your blood pressure and heart rate will be measured throughout the test.
  • Once you have attained the necessary heart rate, the treadmill will stop and you will be asked to lie down on the examining couch immediately in order for your sonographer to acquire images of your heart during stress.
  • You may be asked to hold your breath, which you may find it difficult and uncomfortable, but it is sometimes necessary for your sonographer to obtain the best possible images.
  • Your cardiologist will compare the resting and stress images after the test.

Are there any risks involved?

There are no known risks involved with an echocardiogram. However, walking briskly on the treadmill may lead to serious complications such as a heart attack, which is, fortunately, rare.