What is stress echocardiography? If your doctor prescribes this diagnostic procedure, take a look at what you need to know about this type of test.
What Does This Type of Test Measure?
Stress testing allows the medical provider to evaluate how well your heart supplies your body with blood under physical activity/stress. The doctor or other medical provider will monitor your blood pressure, pulse, and heart rhythm during the test. This can help the doctor to diagnose coronary artery disease or other cardiac conditions.
Are Stress Tests and Stress Echos Different?
While a traditional stress test measures how well your heart can handle the workload (or stress) of exercise/physical activity, a stress echo takes the test a step farther. Along with blood pressure and heart rhythm, an echocardiogram also includes ultrasound images of the heart. The addition of the echo helps the doctor to evaluate how much blood and oxygen the heart gets during activity.
Why Would a Doctor Order This Test?
Again, this test is used to assess and diagnose coronary artery disease and cardiac-related conditions. The doctor may order this test if you have unexplained chest pain, worsening angina, heart valve problems, or other cardiac symptoms.
You may also need this test if you already have a diagnosed cardiac disorder or have had a heart attack. A stress echo can help the doctor to determine your heart's response to treatment and assess the progress of your condition.
Does This Test Hurt?
Even though the physical part of the test may cause fatigue, a stress echo isn't painful. This non-invasive test uses sound waves to look into the heart muscle. After you walk or jog on a treadmill (or a similar piece of exercise equipment), the medical provider will spread a special gel on your chest area and use an ultrasound machine/wand to take images.
What Happens After a Cardiac Echo?
The medical provider will review the images and other test results. Normal test results mean the doctor has determined your heart is able to function properly and you most likely do not have coronary or cardiac disease. If the doctor still suspects you may have a cardiac condition, they may order different tests.
An abnormal result means your heart isn't working as it should. Your doctor will assess the images from the test (along with other information, such as your heart rhythm and blood pressure) to make a diagnosis and create a treatment plan.