Dobutamine Stress Echocardiography (Echo)

This type of echocardiogram (echo) involves using dobutamine. This is a medicine that stimulates your heart similar to the way exercise does. It is typically done to check how the heart responds to stress when you are unable to exercise on a treadmill or a bike. The medicine increases your heart rate and the squeezing function of your heart. Your healthcare provider gives you dobutamine through an IV. They then take ultrasound pictures of your heart, using sound waves through a device placed on your chest wall (echocardiography). The pictures are taken before and after you get dobutamine. This lets your healthcare provider see if blood is flowing properly through the heart and if your heart is pumping normally. The test is often done in a hospital or cardiac testing center.

Image of patient undergoing procedure

Before your test

Tell your healthcare provider what medicines you take, and ask if you should take them before the test. You may need to hold certain medicines, such as beta blockers before the test. Don’t smoke, drink alcohol, or have any caffeine for at least   12 hours before the test, or as directed by your healthcare provider. Follow any directions you are given for not eating or drinking before the test.  Make sure to wear a two-piece outfit. You may need to undress from the waist up and put on a short hospital gown. Allow an extra hour for checking in and getting ready for the test.

image of patient undergoing stress echocardiography

During your test

  • Small, sticky pads (electrodes) are placed on your chest to record the electrical activity of your heart.

  • An IV (intravenous) line is placed in your arm.

  • A painless device (transducer ) coated with cool gel is moved firmly over your chest. This device creates ultrasonic, inaudible sound waves that make images of your heart on a screen.

  • You will get dobutamine slowly through the IV, in small doses about every 3 minutes. It is normal to feel your heart pound for a few minutes while the medicine is being given.

  • Echo images are taken before the medicine is given, during the time you are getting the medicine, and after your pulse returns to normal. Your healthcare provider may give you a second medicine to slow your heartbeat to a normal level.

  • Your heart and blood pressure will be monitored  during and after the test.

After your test

When the test is over, you may return to your normal routine. Ask your healthcare provider about taking any medicine that you were told to skip before the test. Your healthcare provider will discuss your test results with you. The test results help your provider plan your treatment and any other tests you may need.

Report any symptoms

Be sure to tell your healthcare provider if you feel any of the following during the test:

  • Chest, arm, or jaw discomfort

  • Irregular heartbeat

  • Flushed feeling

  • Palpitations

  • Shortness of breath

  • Nausea

  • Headache

  • Numbness

  • Lightheadedness or like you might faint