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What Happens During a Stress Echocardiogram?

Clip Number: 6 of 13
Presentation: Stress Echocardiogram
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Reviewed By: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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An echocardiogram or ultrasound is a test that uses sound waves to get a picture of your heart. These sound waves are too high for you to hear, but the "picture" they make can be seen on a special TV screen.
A stress echocardiogram usually has three parts:
First, a resting echocardiogram or ultrasound is performed. Second, you will exercise on a treadmill or bicycle. And third, another echocardiogram is performed.
When you are ready, you will be asked to lie down and relax on the exam table while a gel is applied to your chest. The echocardiogram will create a picture of your heart at rest by moving a wand-like device over your chest area. This image or picture will show your doctor your heart's internal structures, size and movement on a special TV-like screen.
You will then be asked to exercise by walking on a treadmill or pedaling a bike. Every 2 to 3 minutes the speed or incline of the treadmill will gradually be increased. If you are out of shape or at high risk for coronary artery disease, these increases will be smaller and more gradual. You will not be asked to exercise more than you are able.
Your doctor will watch your heart's function and response to the physical activity closely, looking for ANY changes in your EKG pattern, blood pressure, and overall mental status. You should let your doctor know immediately if you are having any chest pain or unusual shortness of breath while you are exercising. The exercise will be stopped if you are having these symptoms or if you are clearly showing signs of heart disease.
The exercise part of the test usually lasts a total of 8 to 12 minutes. The length of the test depends on your physical condition and your reaction to the exercise.
At the peak of exercise, the treadmill will gradually be stopped and you will be instructed to lie down immediately on the exam table. A second echocardiogram is then done to visualize or see the heart's structures and motion while it is exercising.
This last echocardiogram will conclude your stress test.

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