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Stress Echocardiogram - Uses, Preparation, Procedure, Interpretations, and Complications

Published on Aug 05, 2022   -  5 min read


A stress echocardiogram is a test used to find how well your heart works under stress. Read the following article for more information on stress echocardiograms.



A stress echocardiogram, also called stress echo or stress echocardiography, uses ultrasound imaging to detect how well your heart muscles are able to pump blood into your body.

How Will Stress Be Triggered During the Stress Echocardiogram?

  1. Exercise Stress Cardiogram:

2. Pharmacological Stress Echocardiogram:

What Are the Uses of Stress Echocardiograms?

What Are the Factors Affecting the Result of Stress Echocardiogram?

  1. False Positives:

2. False Negatives:

How Do You Prepare for Your Stress Echocardiogram?

How Is the Stress Echocardiogram Taken?

  1. Resting Echocardiogram: Before the stress echocardiogram, a resting cardiogram is taken in an echo lab. It is used to detect how well your heart works when you are at rest. During the test, your doctor may place ten small patches called electrodes on your chest, which are connected to an electrocardiogram (ECG). The ECG measures the electrical activity of your heart and monitors the regularity of heartbeats. Your blood pressure is recorded throughout the procedure.

  2. Exercise Stress Echocardiogram: After your resting echocardiogram, you will be asked to walk slowly later to walk faster on a treadmill or pedal the exercise cycle. You need to walk for about 5 to 15 minutes, depending on your age and your fitness level. Your doctor tells you to stop the exercise when your heart rate has increased or when it reaches a peak. Exercise echocardiography is preferred over non-exercise echocardiography as it more closely reproduces our daily activities. After that, you will lie on your side for the resting echocardiogram of your heart. They will apply a special gel over your skin and place a device called a transducer.

  3. Pharmacological Stress Echocardiogram: In 2007, the American society of echocardiography (ASE) recommended “Dobutamine” as the first-line agent for pharmacologic stress echocardiography. Dobutamine is a sympathomimetic drug that causes increased inotropic (changes the force of your heart contractions), chronotropic(changes the heart rate), and increased blood pressure. Dipyridamole maintains the blood flow and keeps the heart blood vessels open.

The Dobutamine stress echocardiogram (DSE) test is used for patients who are not able to exercise. Dobutamine has a similar effect to exercising on the heart. In the DSE test, Dobutamine is introduced into the vein as an intravenous line (IV) which makes the heart beat faster. It should not be given to people having unstable ventricular arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats originate in the lower chambers of your heart).

4. Recommended Dose of Dobutamine: Start with 10 microgram/kg/min and then increase every three minutes to 20,30,40 microgram/kg/min. If 85 percent of age-predicted maximal heart rate (APMHR) is not achieved at 40 microgram/kg/min, then a 3 minute 50 microgram may be used. If Dobutamine alone is not effective, we may use an atropine injection (25 to 50mg) IV every minute starting at 40 microgram/kg/min. A maximum of 2 mg of Atropine can be used.

After that, the images of your heart working under stress will be recorded. For that, you will be asked to lie on your left side with your left arm out.The technician will apply a special gel and move the transducer over the chest, which produces soundwaves to form images of your heart and other internal structures. During this time, your heart rate, electrocardiogram (ECG), and blood pressure are also recorded.

Finally, the technician will wipe the gel and remove the electrodes placed over the chest and the IV line in a pharmacological stress echocardiogram. This test usually takes around one hour to complete. The test has to be performed within 90 seconds after your exercise; otherwise, the sensitivity of the test will be reduced.

What Is the Emergency Management for DSE?

If the patient is facing any side effects from Dobutamine, it may be reversed by:

What Are the Interpretations of Stress Echocardiograms?

  1. Normal Results: When you are able to exercise as long as most people of your age and sex, your result is normal. During the test, you should not have abnormal symptoms and no changes in your blood pressure and ECG. Your heart should respond to increased stress. A normal result shows that your coronary artery blood flow is normal.

  2. Abnormal Results: When you are not able to exercise as long as most people your age, you may have reduced blood flow to your heart due to coronary artery disease or from scarring of the heart muscles due to a past heart attack.

What Are the Treatment Options for an Abnormal Stress Echocardiogram?

You may be suggested any of the following treatments:

What Are the Complications of Stress Echocardiograms?


A stress echocardiogram or stress echo is an effective tool in the diagnosis of heart diseases. This test has an accuracy of 80 to 90 percent in the detection of coronary artery disease. The major advantage of this test is that it is safe, economically affordable, and lacks radiation exposure. It has better visualization and higher specificity when compared to nuclear stress testing.


Last reviewed at:
05 Aug 2022  -  5 min read




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