What is a stress echocardiogram?

A stress echocardiogram actually combines two common tests: the exercise stress test and the echocardiogram. It involves walking on a treadmill while your heart is continuously monitored with an electrocardiogram (ECG) and your doctor to measure your heart function both at rest and while exercising.

Following are some frequently asked questions about the stress test and how to prepare for it. Click on the question for the answer, which will appear below the questions.

What to expect

  • What will happen during the test?

    The entire test will take approximately 1 ½ hours. You will be asked to remove your shirt or blouse and put on a gown or a sheet to keep you comfortable and maintain privacy. After lying on an examination table, the technician—called a sonographer—will apply a colorless gel to your chest. The transducer will be moved back and forth across your chest to record several views of your heart.

    First resting images of the heart are obtained. Second, an exercise tolerance test (ETT) or “stress” test is performed. The ETT measures some aspects of your heart’s performance during physical activity. Electrodes will be placed on the chest the same as for an electrocardiogram (ECG). Your blood pressure, heart rate, and ECG will be recorded at rest, usually while you are lying on your back and again when standing.

    You will then be asked to perform a “graded” exercise test on a motor-driven treadmill. The exercise-protocol that you will follow will be determined by the physician supervising your test, but will begin at a relatively easy level and become progressively more difficult with each subsequent stage. Your blood pressure, heart rate, and ECG will be recorded at frequent intervals during exercise and after exercise. The physician or technologist may stop the test at any time for medical reasons. You may ask to stop the test at any time because of significant fatigue or discomfort. However, we encourage you to exercise as long as possible so that we may assess your heart under maximum stress.

    When maximum stress is reached the treadmill will be slowed then stopped fairly quickly. Once the treadmill is stopped you will be asked to immediately sit and then roll onto your left hip with your left arm under your head. This is what we like to refer to as “Stop Drop & Roll.” The sonographer will use the transducer to capture the stress echocardiography images for one minute. You may be asked to exhale and hold it for as long as you can during this part of the test. The sonographer will record and store both the rest and the stress images.

  • What is the preparation for the test?
    • Wear loose, comfortable clothing and comfortable walking shoes.
    • Since your blood pressure will be checked periodically during the test, wear a short-sleeved shirt or blouse.
    • Do not wear boots, jumpsuits, overalls, or a dress.
    • Please do not eat or drink anything with caffeine in it for eight hours before your stress test. Items with caffeine include sodas, ‘caffeine free’ sodas, coffee, decaf coffee, tea, decaf tea, chocolate, Excedrin and certain cold or diet pills.
    • Do not eat anything 4 hours prior to the stress test.
    • Please do not smoke or exercise 8 hours before testing.
    • You should continue to take all medications, unless your cardiologist instructs you to do otherwise.
  • What should i bring with me for the stress echocardiogram?
    • Insurance Card
    • Referral for Echo if required by your insurance company
    • Previous echocardiogram if from outside facility.
  • Where will the test be performed?

    The test will be performed at:

    Baylor Scott & White Legacy Heart Center
    6601 Preston Rd
    Plano, Texas 75024

    It is very important that you keep your appointment once it is scheduled. If you must cancel your appointment, please give the office at least 24 hours notice by calling 469.800.6300. Our testing schedule requires tight time restrictions, so please notify the office immediately if you will be late for your appointment. We appreciate your complete cooperation.

  • Who will give me the test results?

    After a review of the test, your medical history, other imaging modalities and previous tests by a Baylor Scott & White Legacy Heart Center cardiologist, a report will be sent to the ordering physician. The ordering physician will then review the results and discuss them with you.