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What is stress echocardiography?

Stress Echocardiography is an echocardiogram that evaluates the working of your heart. The heart is one such organ that’s gradually affected by our daily lifestyle choices. Here we discuss everything you should know if your doctor has advised you to get your heart health tested.

Stress echocardiography is a type of echocardiography, which is also commonly known as ECG. Echocardiography is a medical test through which the doctor examines the functioning of the heart and its valves.

Through this test, live images of the heart are produced, which is called echocardiogram using ultrasound machines.

Stress echocardiography is one such method of heart testing.

What is stress echocardiography?

Stress echocardiography is a type of test that assesses how well the heart works under stress. Stress is created either by asking a person to exercise or through medicine. During the stress echocardiography test, a person is asked to exercise on a treadmill or a stationary cycle, and gradually the stress is increased. When the heart rate is at peak levels, the doctor will take ultrasound images of your heart to analyze whether oxygen can reach your heart muscles when you are exercising.

The doctor advises this test if the person is complaining about chest pain. This test is done to find the root cause behind chest pain, such as coronary artery disease or myocardial infarction. Also, this test determines how much exercise your heart can safely tolerate if you have cardiac rehabilitation.

Do’s and don’ts for the echocardiography test

While you are getting yourself tested, you must be very careful as this test is very safe, but some complications might arise in severe cases like a person might faint or have an abnormal heart rhythm, or they can also suffer from a heart attack. You must keep in mind the following points before you start getting yourself tested.

  • Before 3-4 hours of the test, you must not consume anything.
  • Nicotine interferes with the heart rate, so make sure that you don’t smoke on the test day.
  • Do not consume caffeine for at least 24 hours before the test.
  • Also, consult your doctor if you take any medication which contains caffeine.
  • Do not take any diabetes medicine prior to your test without consulting your doctor.
  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes which are comfortable for you to exercise.
  • Also, update the doctor about any medical complications or medications you might be going through.

Why do you need a stress echocardiography?

Stress echocardiography tests the functioning of the heart. People usually go for this test if they are dealing with of the below health issues –

  • In case you have symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, or an increase in heart rate. It is used to find out the root cause behind it.
  • To analyze the functioning of your heart when the flow of blood increases through it.
  • To analyze the heart rhythms.
  • To check for any blood clots in the chambers of the heart.
  • To detect the problems with the pumping or functioning functions of the heart.
  • To check the size of the heart, dilation, or thickening of the heart.
  • If you already have any heart issues, it helps to diagnose whether the medications are effective.
  • To identify if you have coronary heart disease.

Stress echocardiography test procedure

After understanding why the test is done and what we need to keep in mind while getting tested, the next question that comes to our mind is how the test is performed? What do they do to take ultrasonic pictures of your heart?

Let’s answer all of these questions through a step-by-step procedure of the test.

  1. To begin with the testing, the doctor will ask you to change into a patient gown from the waist up.
  2. So, prior to the stress test, you will have to undergo a normal ECG. For this, the doctor will attach small electrodes to your body, chest, arms, and legs. These electrodes are painless, sticky patches. If you have a hairy chest, they might have to shave small areas on your chest to apply electrodes.
  3. These electrodes are further attached to an electrocardiogram machine with wires. The electrical activity of the heart is recorded by the machine during the test.
  4. Blood pressure is also monitored simultaneously during the test.
  5. The doctor records a resting echocardiogram by asking you to lie down on a procedure table. It involves placing a painless transducer on different areas of your chest and recording pictures of your heart to measure the flow of blood through it.
  6. The next step of the test will involve the actual stress test. The doctor will ask you to either walk on the treadmill or pedal a stationary bike. The speed on the treadmill or bike is increased gradually to increase the stress.
  7. The doctor will observe the EKG machine closely, and if there are signs of any irregularity like dizziness, shortness of breath, or chest pain, the doctor will stop the test immediately.
  8. The echocardiogram will be repeated immediately after the stress test when the heart rate is still at its peak levels.
  9. The doctor wiFll usually ask you to take a rest after the test. And the doctor will discuss the results with you.

Points to note about stress echocardiography test 

  1. It is a painless test, but your comfort is very important for the doctor.
  2. In cases where the patient cannot exercise, the doctor uses drugs like dobutamine to stimulate a similar effect on your heart. This is also called a pharmacological stress test.
  3. Just in case you experience any chest pain or discomfort, do notify your care team immediately.
  4. Do not forget to ask your doctor everything you should know after getting the test results.
  5. Also, inquire about the reason behind your heart problems and what changes you should bring to your daily lifestyle.

What happens after the test is completed

Once the test is completed, if the doctor finds you completely normal without any severe issue, he will send you home. In situations where you might not be comfortable after the test, or you might be diagnosed with something severe, then the doctor will keep you under observation.

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