An exercise echocardiogram combines an exercise stress test with an echocardiogram. An exercise stress echocardiogram allows us to learn more about how well your heart works when it is stressed. As you walk on a treadmill, we closely watch your heart activity.
Getting Ready for an Exercise Stress Test
- Do not eat or drink for 4 hours. If you have diabetes, let your doctor know since you may need special instructions.
- If you take heart medicines, let your doctor know when you schedule the test. You may be asked to stop taking some of these drugs ahead of time.
- Wear comfortable clothes and walking shoes. Be sure to wear a 2-piece outfit. You will be asked to undress from the waist up.
- Before the test, details of the test and its risks and benefits will be explained to you. Plan to sign a consent form. If you have any questions, please ask.
What to Expect During Your Exercise Stress Test
When you arrive, you will remove your clothes from the waist up and change into a hospital gown. Sticky patches (electrodes) will be placed on your chest to watch your heartbeat.
First, you will have a brief resting echocardiogram. You will be asked to lie on an exam table. Gel will be applied to a small microphone-like device called a transducer. The sonographer then gently moves the transducer over the chest to capture images of the heart using ultrasound. You may notice these images on a nearby screen. To improve the quality of the images, you may be asked to breathe slowly or hold your breath.
Second, you will have an exercise stress test. You will be asked to walk on a treadmill. You start slowly with a slow increase in the speed and slope of the treadmill. You will be asked to continue walking as long as you can. During the exercise test, it’s common to feel your heart pound, breathing increase, and leg muscles tire. Be sure to let us know if you feel chest or arm pain, shortness of breath, leg fatigue, or dizziness. Throughout the procedure, we keep a close eye on your heart rhythm, blood pressure, and symptoms.
Third, an after-exercise echocardiogram is performed. When you are done on the treadmill, you will be quickly guided back onto the exam table. The sonographer will record a second set of images.
After the test, the doctors analyze your ECG and exercise performance. They also compare the images from the resting echo to the after-exercise echo to see how your heart works under stress. In a healthy heart, all areas of the heart pump harder during stress. If an area of the heart does not pump as well during the stress test, this tells us that there may be a narrowed or blocked artery preventing the heart muscle from getting enough blood to function properly. If this is the case, you may need to have further tests.
Expect the entire test to take 1 hour.
Your doctor will receive a written report and talk with you about the final results.
The Spanish version of this Health Facts for You is #7065.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 07/08/2010
Copyright © 06/07/2010 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6137
Print Health Fact For You