A Stress Echocardiogram involves combining an exercise stress test and a modified echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart). Stress echocardiography is performed to assess any changes in the oxygen supply to your heart, which may be caused by blockages in the coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle.
The test takes up to 1 hour to perform.
• Do not drink tea, coffee, or caffeinated drinks (example “Coke”) for 3 hours prior to your test.
• Do not smoke for 3 hours prior to your test.
• Bring a list of your current prescription medications with you.
• Wear comfortable exercise clothing and closed in walking shoes to your appointment, and if possible, please wear a 2-piece item of clothing (for example a blouse/shirt and skirt/shorts/pants) as you will be asked to remove your shirt. For female patients, please note, if possible, do not wear full-length pantyhose to your appointment as ECG stickers will be placed on your lower legs.
There are three parts to this test. You will be asked to remove your clothing from the waist up and lie down on a bed (gowns will be provided for female patients). In the first part of the test, the technician will perform an ECG while you are lying on the bed. You will then be asked to lie on your left hand side, and a specialized sonographer will perform a modified echocardiogram. This involves placing a handheld transducer with some cold transmission gel on your chest to take ultrasound pictures of your heart. The transducer will be placed in different positions on your chest, taking multiple pictures from several different angles.
The second part of the test involves walking on a treadmill. A Cardiologist will be present for this part of the test. The speed and slope of the treadmill will be increased every three minutes, or adjusted according to the Cardiologists instructions. The objective is for you to walk for as long as you can. Your heart rate, heart rhythm, and blood pressure will be closely monitored throughout the test. If there is a change in any of these observations during the test that concerns the doctor, the test will be stopped immediately. Generally, the test will be terminated when you feel fatigued, short of breath, or develop chest pain or tightness. If you develop any other symptoms (such as dizziness, unusual shortness of breath, palpitations, or generally feeling unwell) you should inform the technician or doctor.
The third part of the test will involve taking more ultrasound images of your heart. When the treadmill stops, it will stop suddenly, and you will need to lie down on the bed as quickly as possible. The sonographer will take the ultrasound images, and you will be instructed to perform certain breathing exercises.
Emergency equipment is available should any complication arise, and the staff that are present during the test are highly trained in the use of emergency equipment.
The information obtained from both the echocardiogram images and the ECGs are reviewed by a cardiologist and the results will be promptly forwarded to your referring doctor, within two working days. Your referring doctor will then discuss your results with you at your review appointment.
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