An Echocardiogram Stress Test is one of the best tools available to cardiologists such as Dr. Diego. Using ultrasound images, an echocardiogram shows the heart muscles working to pump blood to the rest of the body and allows the cardiologist to compare images of the heart at rest and under stress. During an echocardiogram (called ‘echo’ for short), electrodes are placed on the chest and wires are attached to the electrodes. This allows the technician to monitor the patient’s heart function during the test.
The first step is to have a resting echocardiogram, which will be used as a baseline. Then the patient is asked to walk on a treadmill or pedal an exercise bicycle, so that Dr. Diego can compare the results.
When the heart is beating at the target rate (or when the patient complains of fatigue or chest pain), he or she will be asked to stop. If the patient is physically unable to walk or pedal, he or she may receive a medication to make the heart beat faster and harder.
During this time, the patient’s blood pressure and heart rhythm will be monitored. The echo images will often show whether parts of the heart muscle do not respond when the heart rate is increased. This is a sign that the heart may not be getting enough blood or oxygen, which could be the result of narrowed or blocked arteries.
Before his or her appointment, the patient will be asked to wear loose clothing and to take his usual medications. If he has taken medication for erectile dysfunction within the previous 24-hour period, the patient should inform the doctor. The patient will be asked not to eat anything and not to smoke cigarettes for three hours before the test.
Dr. Diego May Order This Test For Patients Who:
- Have chest pain
- Have angina that seems to be getting worse
- Have heart valve problems
- Have recently had a heart attack
- Are planning to have surgery or begin an exercise program
If the test is positive– i.e., if it indicates that some heart muscle may be damaged and that there is reduced blood flow to the heart– the patient may need further tests and/or treatment.