Stress Echocardiography

Alternative names
Echocardiography stress test; Stress test - echocardiography


Stress echocardiography is a test that helps diagnose heart disease with the help of ultrasound images. (A more routine Exercise stress test does not use imaging.) Following exercise or other stress to the heart, the images reveal parts of the heart that may not be receiving enough blood or oxygen because of blocked arteries.

This test may be used to monitor your progress if you already have a known heart condition.

How the test is performed

The ultrasound portion of this test is performed in the same way as an echocardiogram. Exercise (treadmill/bicycle) or medication is used to increase your heart rate and show how your heart works under exertion.

How to prepare for the test

  • DO NOT eat or drink for at least 3 hours before the test.  
  • Ask your health care provider if you should take any of your routine medicines on the day of the test (especially if you are taking heart medication).  
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing.  
  • You will be asked to sign a consent form before the test.

How the test will feel

A stress echocardiogram includes the following steps:

  • A resting echocardiogram will be performed.  
  • You will exercise or be given medicine until you reach the target heart rate.  
  • Your blood pressure and heart rhythm (ECG) will be monitored throughout the procedure.  
  • A videotape of the ultrasound images will be taken during the procedure.  
  • Another echocardiogram will be taken immediately after your target heart rate has been achieved.

Why the test is performed

The test is performed to see whether your heart is getting enough blood flow and, therefore, enough oxygen when it is put under stress. The intent is for any evidence of blockage or disease to be revealed and treated before serious or life-threatening problems develop.

What the risks are
The risks are very low, and health care professionals will monitor you during the entire procedure. Rare complications include abnormal heart rhythm, heart attack, and collapse.

Special considerations

The main benefit is that a stress echocardiogram is a very effective, noninvasive test that can help determine whether you have heart disease and if so, how serious the problem is. Early diagnosis and monitoring of heart disease allows treatment to begin early.

For patients who have already been diagnosed with heart disease, this test can show whether your heart’s function and blood flow are stable, or if blood flow to additional areas of your heart has become blocked.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Gevorg A. Poghosian, Ph.D.

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