If your doctor has recommended an echocardiography stress test, you may have some questions. What is it? Why do you need it? How is it different from other types of tests? How will this help? Here's a brief overview of an echocardiography stress test and how it helps diagnose potential heart problems.
What Is Echocardiography?
Echocardiography, often just referred to as an echo, is a type of ultrasound that uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the heart. The images are used to evaluate the heart's structure and function and can detect any abnormalities or changes in its size or shape. An echo can also help identify any blockages or buildups in the arteries that supply blood to the heart.
What Is an Echo Stress Test?
An echo stress test combines an echocardiogram with a treadmill or stationary bike exercise test. It starts with a resting echocardiogram, which creates images of the heart at rest. Then, while you are exercising on either the treadmill or the stationary bike, your doctor will use real-time imaging to determine how your body responds when your heart rate increases with activity. Doing so allows them to see how well your heart pumps blood while under physical stress.
How Does Echocardiography Help Diagnose Potential Heart Problems?
The results of an echo stress test can help doctors diagnose certain types of cardiovascular diseases, such as coronary artery disease and cardiomyopathy, an enlargement or thickening of the walls of the heart. It can also be used to determine if there are any blockages in the arteries that could lead to chest pain or shortness of breath during physical activities. In addition, it can show if there is structural damage to your valves, like leaking valves or valve narrowing.
What Do You Do to Prepare for an Echocardiography Stress Test?
If your doctor has asked you to get this type of test done, make sure you understand exactly what you need to do before, during, and after so you get accurate results. Generally, you'll be asked to stop taking certain medications, like blood thinners or beta blockers. You should also wear comfortable clothes and shoes you can exercise in.
An echocardiography stress test is a valuable tool for diagnosing potential cardiovascular problems. With the information gained, your doctor can create a treatment plan tailored specifically for you and monitor your progress over time. If you have any questions about the procedure, talk to your doctor.