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An echocardiogram (also called an echo) uses sound waves to make an image of your heart. A device called a transducer is moved across your chest. It looks like a microphone. The transducer sends sound waves that echo off your heart and back to the transducer. These echoes are turned into moving pictures of your heart that can be seen on a video screen.
In a stress echocardiogram, an echo is done while your heart is at rest and after your heart is made to work hard (stressed). You exercise to make your heart work hard.
Sometimes, instead of exercise, a medicine is used that makes your heart respond like you have been exercising.
A stress echocardiogram is done to check for heart problems that can be seen while the heart is working hard (stressed). It may be done to diagnose and monitor many different heart diseases.
For example, this test may be done to:
An echocardiogram is done while your heart is at rest. This is called the baseline. Then you will exercise, or you will get a medicine that makes your heart work hard. Then you will have another echocardiogram.
To do the baseline echocardiogram:
If you will exercise during the test, you will start after the baseline echocardiogram is finished. You may walk on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bicycle. During the test:
If medicine will be used to stress your heart, you will get the medicine after the baseline echocardiogram. During the test:
A stress echocardiogram takes about 30 to 60 minutes.
You may have a brief, sharp pain when the intravenous (IV) needle is placed in a vein in your arm.
You will not have pain from the echocardiogram. Gel is put on your chest for the ultrasound. It may feel cool. The hand-held ultrasound device is pressed firmly against your chest, but it does not cause pain. You will not hear or feel the sound waves.
If you exercise during the test, you may sweat, feel tired, and be short of breath. You might have symptoms of angina, such as chest pain or pressure.
If medicine to stress your heart is used, you may have symptoms of mild nausea, headache, dizziness, flushing, or angina (such as chest pain or pressure). These symptoms last only a few minutes.
An echocardiogram is safe, because the test uses only sound waves to evaluate your heart. These high-frequency sound waves have not been shown to have any harmful effects.
The exercise or medicine part of the test can cause low blood pressure, nausea, irregular heartbeats, or a heart attack.
If contrast material is used, there is a slight risk of having an allergic reaction. Most reactions can be controlled with medicine.
Results are usually available within one day. If the test is done by a cardiologist, the results may be available immediately after the test.
The heart chambers and walls of the heart are of normal size and thickness, and they move normally.
Heart valves are working normally, with no leaks or narrowing. There is no sign of infection.
The amount of blood pumped from the left ventricle with each heartbeat (ejection fraction) is normal.
There is no excess fluid in the sac surrounding the heart, and the lining around the heart is not thickened.
There are no tumours and blood clots in the heart chambers.
Heart chambers are too big. The walls of the heart are thicker or thinner than normal. A thin heart wall may mean poor blood flow to the heart muscle or an old heart attack. A thin, bulging area of the heart wall may indicate a bulge in the ventricle (ventricular aneurysm). The heart muscle walls do not move normally because of a decreased blood supply from narrowed coronary arteries.
One or more heart valves do not open or close properly (are leaking) or do not look normal. Signs of infection are present.
The amount of blood pumped from the left ventricle with each heartbeat (ejection fraction) is lower than normal.
There is fluid around the heart (pericardial effusion). The lining around the heart is too thick.
A tumour or blood clot may be found in the heart.
Current as of: May 5, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Adam Husney MD - Family MedicineStephen Fort MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology
Current as of: May 5, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Stephen Fort MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology
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