What is a Stress Echocardiogram?
A stress echocardiogram is a diagnostic procedure that helps to root out underlying heart problems. Commonly called the stress echo, it checks how well your heart muscles function when under stress. A stress echo also measures whether the flow of blood and oxygen is optimal.
You usually undergo the procedure because your doctor or cardiologist wants to compare images of your heart taken while you’re at rest and while you’re doing some physical activity. Abnormalities lead to further investigation using other testing methods to determine the exact diagnosis. Your heart specialist recommends a stress echocardiogram if you’re experiencing symptoms that indicate a heart condition, such as:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Feeling of tightness in your chest
- Shortness of breath
- Numbness or weakness in your legs or arms
- Back pain or pain in your neck or jaw
- An irregular heartbeat
The heart doctors at the Medex Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Queens, NY are especially vigilant about preventing heart disease and stroke. A sedentary lifestyle increases your blood pressure, adds to your high cholesterol and can lead to obesity and diabetes. Besides cardiovascular disease, your pain may be caused by other conditions, which is why you need an accurate diagnosis.
What Does a Stress Echocardiogram Detect?
When fat deposits block your arteries, they make it difficult for your heart muscle to pump blood. The added pressure increases your chances of developing ischemia, heart valve disease or even heart failure. Every 36 seconds, a person dies in the United States from complications related to a heart condition.
To prevent this, your doctor may recommend a stress echo, one of the best diagnostic methods, to rule out any underlying problems with your heart. Getting yourself checked early on, when you’re just starting to notice the symptoms, can put you on a path to regain your heart health. With proper diet and exercise, you can maintain a high quality of life. A stress echocardiogram procedure tells your doctor:
- Whether you have any congenital heart defects
- How well your heart functions when you’re physically active
- Whether the different components of your heart are working properly, including the chambers, valves, walls, aorta and arteries
- How likely it is for you to suffer a coronary artery disease, such as a blocked artery, in the near future
- That there isn’t any fluid in the sac surrounding your heart
- How well the blood is flowing in your veins and arteries
- If your heart muscle structure is sufficient, ruling out any shrinkage problems
- Whether you’re physically capable of participating in sports or in an exercise plan, especially if you’ve had years of minimal physical activity
- How effective your exercise regimen and diet changes are working, especially if you’re already in a cardiac rehabilitation program
What’s the Procedure for a Stress Echocardiogram Test?
You don’t have to do anything special to prepare for the test unless your doctor gives you specific instructions. The echocardiogram is captured through a small, handheld wand called a transducer. This device emits sound waves into your chest. The resulting reflections create a live image of your heart beating.
Your blood pressure and heartbeat are continuously monitored throughout the procedure. While you’re resting comfortably, an ultrasound specialist places the transducer on your chest to record your heart activity without stress. When stress is added, your doctor watches how your heart responds. There are two types of stress echocardiograms:
- Stress echocardiogram. With this test, you must physically speed up your heart rate by exerting yourself. Often, you use either a treadmill or a stationary bicycle. The resistance is slowly increased as you continue until you begin to strain somewhat. The goal is to test your heart, not damage it.
- Dobutamine stress echocardiogram. The drug dobutamine is given to you through an intravenous drip. The drug induces a stress factor on your heart. This procedure allows your doctor to gain the same information as from a normal echocardiogram if you’re unable to exercise due to an injury or some other medical condition.
Who Reads the Echocardiogram?
The echocardiogram provides a recording of your heart movements, so your doctor can compare your heart’s functions while resting and while stressed. Your Medex heart specialist, along with an experienced radiologist, can determine from the echocardiogram images if you have a heart defect or a more recent condition. The imaging test helps your doctor narrow or confirm a diagnosis.
Contact the Medex Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Queens if you believe you have a heart problem. If your cardiologist wants to confirm a diagnosis, you may have to undergo a stress echocardiogram. Then you can start appropriate treatment