Stress Echocardiography (Echo)

Man with wires attached to chest walking on treadmill. Health care provider is taking man's blood pressure.

Stress echocardiography is also called a stress echo. It's a test that records pictures of your heart before and after you exercise. During activity, your heart has to work harder to send oxygen-rich blood throughout your body. This test helps your healthcare provider see whether your heart is working well when you are active. Allow at least 1 to 2 hours for the test from the time you arrive to when you can leave.

Before your test

  • When you schedule your test, mention all prescription and over the counter medicines you take. This includes supplements and herbs. Ask if it’s OK to take them before your test. Certain medicines can affect blood flow to the heart and the heart rate and affect the test results. You may be asked to wait until after the test is complete before you take your usual doses of these types of medicines.

  • Discuss any questions or concerns you have with your healthcare provider.

  • Allow extra time to check in. Bring your insurance cards, identification, and any co-payments that are required for the test.

  • Follow any directions you are given for not eating or drinking before the test. Don't drink any caffeine for 12 hours before the test, or as directed by your healthcare provider. If you use tobacco, you may also be asked not to use it the day of the test. This includes cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, chew, and nicotine gum. Stimulating the heart with these substances can affect your test results.

  • Wear flat, comfortable walking or running shoes.

  • Wear a top you can take off easily. You may be asked to remove your clothing from the waist up. If you are a woman, you will be given a hospital gown to wear.

  • An IV (intravenous) catheter may be put into a vein in your arm or hand if contrast is injected during the study.

During your test

Echo uses a small device that makes sound waves (transducer). It sends images of your heart to a video monitor. The images are recorded:

  • A special gel is put on your chest. The transducer is moved over the gel. This records your heart at rest. If you are overweight, the technician may have to apply more pressure to get the best quality images. This can be uncomfortable. Tell your technician if you are uncomfortable.

  • Medical staff will take your blood pressure. You will also have an electrocardiogram (ECG). This test involves small pads (electrodes) that are placed on your chest. The ECG reads the pattern of your heartbeat.

  • Next, you’re asked to walk or run on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bike. You’ll do this until your heart beats rapidly. Note: If you are not able to exercise, you’ll be given a medicine to get your heart working harder, this medicine can make you feel short of breath.

  • You stop exercising. Right away, the transducer is used to take a second set of video images of your heart. Your healthcare provider compares these images with the first ones taken.

  • The technician may use IV contrast to improve the image quality.

During the test, be sure to tell the healthcare provider if you feel any chest, arm, or jaw discomfort. Also mention if you have severe shortness of breath, feel very tired, or feel dizzy. The test may be stopped if you have severe or persistent symptoms with exercise or there is any change in your vital signs or heart rhythm.

After the test

You can go back to your normal daily routine. Be sure to keep your follow-up appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss test results.

Your next appointment is: _______________________