What is a stress echocardiogram? (Stress echo)

A Stress echo is simply an ultrasound of your heart before and after exercise. This information is combined with an electrical recording of your heart rhythm (ECG) throughout the test to assess your heart’s response to exercise.


Why should I have a stress echocardiogram?

Your doctor may refer you for a stress echo to look for:

  1. Blockages in your heart arteries (Ischaemic Heart Disease)
  2. Assess the effectiveness of surgery eg Stent or Bypass Surgery
  3. Assess your Exercise Capacity


How do I prepare for the stress echocardiogram?

The test requires access to your chest, so we ask that you wear a top that can be removed easily. Ladies will be required to remove their bra and will be given a gown. Men may require areas of their chest to be shave to ensure the sticky dots (electrodes) for the ECG can stick well to their skin. We use some rough sandpaper to remove dead skin cells so the ECG dots stick effectively to your skin.

Please wear comfortable enclosed footwear eg joggers.

Please bring with you details of your medications and previous test results if you have them.


What happens during the stress echocardiogram?

A baseline ECG and some medical history is first taken to ensure it is safe to proceed with the test. Next an ultrasound of your heart is taken with you lying on your left hand side.

Next you start walking very slowly on the treadmill. The treadmill increases in speed and incline every three minutes. The intensity of the treadmill exercise depends on your age, sex and heart rate response to exercise. Most people will be exercising to a brisk walk on an incline. Younger patients or those that are quite fit may break into a jog.

Your ECG, blood pressure and any symptoms are monitored throughout the test. When you have achieved an adequate exercise intensity the treadmill is stopped and your heart ultrasound is repeated.


How long does a stress echocardiogram take?

Your appointment will take approximately 45 minutes.


What happens after I have a stress echocardiogram?

Your results will be forwarded to your GP. If there are any urgent concerns with your test an appointment with one of our cardiologists will be scheduled for you.