Stress Echocardiogram (DSE)

If you are attending for a stress echocardiogram please follow the following instructions;

  1. You may not be able to drive yourself home after the test.  Please bring someone with you who can drive you home or arrange for someone to pick you up after the test.
  2. You will need to be without food for 2 hours prior to the procedure.  You can drink water before the test.
  3. Please inform us if you are feeling unwell before your test with any virus or flu-like symptoms, we may be unable to perform the test at this time.
  4. Please check if you are taking any of the medication from the list below, please stop taking these 48hrs before the test.  If you are in any doubt please contact the cardio respiratory department.

Medications that must be stopped 48hrs before the test

  • Beta-blocker tablets.  These include Atenolol, Bisoprolol, Propranolol, Acebutolol, Carvedilol, Labetolol, Nadalol, Oxprenolol, Timolol, Sotolol, Metoprolol, Celiprolol, Pindolol, and Nebivolol,
  • Calcium-channel blocker tablets.  These include Diltiazem and Verapamil.

What is a Stress Echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram or ‘echo’ is a scan that uses ultrasound (sound waves) to produce pictures of the heart.  The test is painless and does not use radioactivity.

During a stress echocardiogram, the heart function is assessed while the heart is under stress.  The ‘stress’ can be triggered by either medication or exercise on a bike/treadmill.   Your Doctor will decide which method is best for you.   Dobutamine is the common medicine used to ‘stress’ the heart, we use the term Dobutamine Stress Echocardiogram (DSE) commonly for this test.

Why is it being done?

A Stress Echocardiogram is performed as it allows your Doctor to understand how the heart copes when it is made to work harder.

A Stress Echocardiogram is useful to diagnose whether you have angina or not.  It can also give your Doctor information about the severity of a heart-valve problem.

What does it involve?

You will be taken into a specially equipped room.  Three people will usually be present while you have the test – a Doctor, a Sonographer and a Nurse.

You will be asked to undress to the waist and put on a gown in a changing cubicle.  The gown should be left open to the front. You will then be asked to lie on a couch on your left hand side.

Stickers will be attached to your chest and connected to the machine.  These will be used to monitor your heart rate.  Your blood pressure will also be checked regularly throughout the test.  A small plastic tube will be placed in the vein in your arm, the doctor may need to inject contrast which improves the quality of the images recorded.

Pictures of your heart will be recorded on the machine.  If you are having a DSE, the medicine to make your heart work harder will be given slowly through the plastic tube in your vein.  If you are having an Exercise Echo you will then be asked to exercise, either by walking on a treadmill or riding an exercise bike.  Occasionally the Sonographer will record pictures of your heart during the test.

When a target heart rate (based on your age) has been reached or if you are unable to continue, more images of the heart will be recorded.  You will continue to have your heart rate and blood pressure monitored until you have fully recovered, which may take several minutes.

Overall the Stress Echo will take around one hour to complete.  You will be asked to wait in the Cardio Respiratory department for 30 minutes after the test.