Stress Echocardiography : Your Guide To The Test

Dr Ravin Sharma
MD Radiologist

19 Jun 2022

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Stress Echocardiography : Your Guide To The Test

In the 21st century, stress does play a very significant role in the context of the health and well-being of humans. It's even been shown to impact an individual's heart; however, with the development of Stress Echocardiography, its effects can be monitored in real-time.

If you're reading this, you've been most probably referred for a stress echo test.

Don't panic—stress echocardiography is a safe procedure, and it's just one of many that cardiologists can use to evaluate your heart health.

In this article, we'll give you the basics & fundamentals of what a stress echo is and how it works, and we'll discuss some questions and concerns that you might have about the test.

Let us walk you through the basics of stress echocardiography

First and foremost, we need to understand what stress is. Stress is a part of our lives that can cause various physical symptoms and mental effects. We feel stress when under pressure or experience anxiety and feelings of worry, nervousness, or dread. Sometimes we feel stressed out because we have too much to do, feel lonely or isolated, or are facing an examination or other high-stakes situation.

So how does this affect the heart?

Under stress, your heart rate speeds up, blood pressure rises, and blood vessels constrict. This affects the heart by reducing the blood and oxygen that reaches your heart. If this goes on for a long time, chronic stress can lead to serious health problems like high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat. You can test for these conditions with a procedure called stress echocardiography.

What is the Stress Echocardiography test?

Stress Echocardiography is a test that looks at the function of your heart. It's done by a cardiologist and involves looking at your heart via ultrasound while exercising on a treadmill. It helps doctors see how well blood flows through your heart while working hard.

For those unfamiliar with the stress echo, it is a specialized type of echocardiogram that measures the health of your heart while you're under stress. It's commonly used to diagnose problems with the structure or function of the heart, particularly in athletes and those under high stress due to work, family, or other factors. Patients are connected to a treadmill during the test and exercised until they reach at least 85% of their maximum heart rate.

The treadmill is slowed down gradually until they walk at a languid pace. At this point, the patient must hold this pace for at least three minutes while the doctor monitors them throughout.

The main reason doctors might suggest this test is if they suspect you have heart disease. It can also be used to follow up on people who have had previous heart problems or surgery. And it can also be performed at wellness check-ups to make sure everything is in good working order!

Stress echocardiography is pretty standard these days, especially among those previously diagnosed with heart problems or concerned about their overall wellbeing.

Who is commonly suggested for the Stress Echo test?

The Stress Echocardiography test is commonly used for people who have a high risk of developing heart disease. They include

#1 Those who have a family history of a specific type of heart disease.

#2 Those with a specific type of inherited blood disorder (e.g., sickle cell anemia, thalassemia)

#3 Those with certain inherited connective tissue disorders (e.g., Marfan syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, homocystinuria) or those with abnormal cholesterol levels

#4 People who use tobacco products or drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamines

#5 People who are experiencing symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath

#6 People with risk factors for coronary artery disease and strokes include diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, obesity, and physical inability.

How is the test done?

When you're getting ready to take a stress echocardiogram, it can be overwhelming to do all the research and remember all the details. To help, we've put together a list of everything essential for you to know before your test.

#1 A resting echocardiogram will first be done at a medical center or health care provider's office. A doctor will place a special gel on your chest and hold a small device called a transducer against it — this device uses ultrasound waves to create an image of your heart, including the chambers and valves.

#2 Then, you will be asked to use the equipment for physical exercises. Most people will walk on a treadmill. Slowly, you'll be asked to walk faster and on an incline — it's like being asked to walk fast or jog up a hill.

#3 For a resting test, your doctor will attach electrodes to your chest and arms. Their main goal is to monitor your heartbeat and the rhythm of your heartbeat. Moreover, doctors want to track the timing of each electrical impulse (or contraction) in the heart along with the interval between impulses. The ECG wires are connected to an electrocardiograph (ECG) device that records specific electrical activity in the heart.

Tips to follow when getting the Stress Echo test in Delhi

Tip 1: A stress echo is typically performed as an outpatient test. Ensure you know how long the procedure is expected to take and make arrangements for transportation home after the test!

Tip 2: Be sure to eat breakfast before the test

Tip 3: Wear loose-fitting clothes that don't restrict movement

Tip 4: If you're taking any medications, ask your doctor if they'll affect your stress echo results

Tip 5: You might want to bring someone with you—but note that only one person can accompany you into the room where the test will be performed

Tip 6: Keep your cell phone on vibrate or switched off, so it doesn't disturb other patients in the waiting room

Tip 7: Don't eat or drink anything for three to four hours before the test.

Tip 8: On the day of the test, don't smoke because nicotine can affect your heart rate.

Tip 9: Don't consume coffee or take any caffeine-containing drugs without consulting your doctor.

Final Thoughts

Congratulations, you've made it to the end of Stress Echocardiography 101!

We know that reading about a test can be stressful. However, all this information will help you understand what will happen and why.