The stress echocardiogram, also known as a stress echo, is used to determine if there is decreased blood flow to the heart and to assess the condition of the heart and blood vessels. Ultrasound images show how well the heart is functioning and reveal the internal structure of the heart.
During a stress echo test, an individual exercises on a treadmill while a doctor and nurses monitor blood pressure and heart rhythm. Before exercising and when the heart rate peaks, ultrasound images are taken to assess changes in heart wall motion. These images would indicate if there are significant blood vessel blockages to the heart.
If the individual is unable to exercise, a chemical stress test may be ordered. This is when medicine is injected to simulate stress on the heart.
Diagnosing Heart Disease
The stress echocardiogram is done to determine if heart disease is present or to evaluate the patient’s status during cardiac care. By revealing how well the heart is functioning, the test can help determine the need for treatment and preventative measures. It helps to distinguish between the many types of heart disease, including coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, atrial fibrillation, heart valve disease, heart failure, congenital heart defects, heart muscle disease and pericarditis.
Symptoms of Heart Disease
A cardiac stress test may be scheduled in response to a variety of symptoms. Some symptoms are easily recognized as the effects of heart disease, while others are less specific. They include:
- Chest pain or chest discomfort that is eased by rest
- Heart rate above 100 beats per minute
- A newly irregular heartbeat
- Labored breathing during common activities or while resting
- Frequent dizziness
- Problems sleeping or sleeping much more than usual
- Waking up with difficulty breathing
- Swelling of the ankles, feet and legs
- Enlarged veins in the neck
- Nausea or a bloated stomach
- Respiratory illness or an ongoing cough
Contact our office if you are experiencing these symptoms or to discuss your concerns with our doctors.