Stress echocardiography is a non-invasive medical test that uses ultrasound imaging to evaluate the heart’s function during physical activity or pharmacologic stress. The test is performed to assess blood flow to the heart, detect blockages in the coronary arteries, and diagnose coronary artery disease (CAD).
During a stress echocardiogram, a small device called a transducer is placed on the patient’s chest. The transducer emits high-frequency sound waves that bounce off the heart and create images that are displayed on a screen. The test is performed at rest, and then repeated while the patient is exercising on a treadmill or bicycle, or receiving medication that mimics the effects of exercise.
The test allows healthcare providers to assess the heart’s response to stress and identify any areas of the heart that may not be receiving enough blood flow. The images produced by the stress echocardiogram can help diagnose coronary artery disease, as well as determine the severity of the disease and the best course of treatment.
There are several types of stress echocardiography:
- Exercise stress echocardiography: This type of stress echocardiogram involves performing exercise, such as walking on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bike, while the ultrasound images are taken.
- Dobutamine stress echocardiography: This type of stress echocardiogram involves receiving a medication called dobutamine that increases heart rate and mimics the effects of exercise.
- Adenosine stress echocardiography: This type of stress echocardiogram involves receiving a medication called adenosine that dilates the coronary arteries and increases blood flow to the heart.
Stress echocardiography is a safe and non-invasive procedure that does not involve radiation. However, as with any medical test, there may be risks associated with the procedure, including an abnormal heart rhythm or a heart attack in patients with underlying heart disease. Patients should discuss the risks and benefits of the procedure with their healthcare provider before undergoing stress echocardiography.
Stress echocardiography is commonly used to diagnose and evaluate coronary artery disease, particularly in patients with symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or fatigue. The test may also be used to monitor the progression of heart disease or the effectiveness of treatment. In addition, stress echocardiography can help identify patients who may benefit from further testing or invasive procedures such as coronary angiography or coronary artery bypass graft surgery.
In summary, stress echocardiography is a valuable diagnostic tool for assessing heart function during physical activity or pharmacologic stress. The test can help diagnose coronary artery disease and guide treatment decisions, and is safe and non-invasive for most patients.