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Should I Get a Stress Echocardiogram Test?

Heart disease is the leading cause of death, accounting for more than 10% of all fatalities in Australia. This statistic translates to 50 average daily deaths from heart disease, or one every half-hour. Taking a stress echocardiogram test is recommended if you have a family history of heart disease or are experiencing chest pain in the heart region. The examination can reveal how well your heart is functioning, providing you and your doctor with the necessary information to maintain your heart health.


What Does the Stress Echocardiogram Test Mean?

A stress echocardiogram test, known as a stress echo, combines a stress test with an ultrasound examination of the heart. A stress echo examines how the heart responds to being forced to work harder. The difference between a stress echo and a stress exercise test is that an echocardiogram is performed before and after exercise.

A stress echo is particularly helpful in identifying coronary heart disease and the existence of coronary artery blockages (the vessels that supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle).


Why Would I Need a Stress Echocardiogram?

If your doctor suspects that the chest pain or shortness of breath is a result of your heart’s valves or chambers, they may recommend an echocardiogram. Your doctor may use the test if you’ve already experienced a heart attack to establish the following:

  1. How much physical activity can you safely handle while undergoing cardiac rehabilitation?
  2. What your level of adherence is to any heart medications?
  3. The results of heart procedures you’ve had, such as angioplasty (surgical unblocking of a blood vessel, especially a coronary artery) or bypass grafting.


During a Stress Echocardiogram, What Can I Expect?

A sonographer (medical imaging professional) will do your test in a specialised medical centre instead of your doctor’s office. The test should last between 30 to 45 minutes. Your doctor will likely give you the following instructions to follow while you get ready for the test:

  1. Before the stress test, you must have no heavy meals 2 hours before the test.
  2. Avoid smoking on the day of the test since nicotine affects your heart’s regular rhythm.
  3. Avoid using products or drugs containing caffeine, including coffee and chocolate.
  4. Put on cosy clothes and jogging shoes.

Certain medications for your heart may also need to be stopped. Click here to find the complete list.

Your doctor will place approximately ten electrodes (adhesive plastic patches) on your chest to begin the stress test. An electrocardiograph (ECG) device that measures the heart’s electrical activity with a focus on the regularity and rate of heartbeats is connected to the electrodes.

Your doctor will perform an ultrasound examination of your heart while you are lying on your side. Ultrasound employs sound waves to provide an image of your heart’s motion and internal structures.

After that, you’ll start working on a treadmill or stationary cycle for six to ten minutes to raise your heart rate. The next ultrasound your doctor does will capture photographs of how your heart works under strain. After the second ultrasound, the sonographer will monitor you as you relax and your heart rate goes back to normal.


What does the test result mean?

The echocardiography stress test has a high level of accuracy. Your doctor will go over the findings of your tests with you. Your blood vessels are most likely not obstructed by coronary artery disease if the test findings are normal and your heart is functioning normally.

A blockage in your blood arteries may cause abnormal test results, which indicate that your heart isn’t pumping blood as efficiently. Another factor can be heart damage brought on by a heart attack.

Early detection of coronary artery disease and an evaluation of your risk for heart attacks can help reduce further consequences. This examination might also reveal whether or not your present cardiac rehabilitation program is effective.