It is possible that some people with heart conditions can have no symptoms unless they are physically active. An echo stress test helps a doctor fully understand the condition of your heart and how it operates, both under resting conditions and under stress. Like other cardiac stress tests, an echo stress test will determine:

  • How your heart responds to activity 
  • If there are problems with your heart or heart valves 
  • If there is part of your heart muscle not getting the blood supply it needs 
  • If your current heart treatment plan is working 

What to expect during an echo stress test

Preparing for your procedure

Do not eat or drink anything for at least two hours prior to your echo stress test. Check with your physician to determine if any of your medications should be avoided for the days leading up to your scheduled test. Make sure to bring all of your medications, as well as any herbal or dietary supplements and over-the-counter medications, to the test with you. Your physician can give you special instructions for necessary medications.  

Avoid caffeine for at least 24 hours prior to your echo stress test. Make sure to wear comfortable clothing and shoes to your test, and avoid using lotion, oil, perfume or powder on your chest beforehand. 

During your procedure

You will be asked to remove clothing above your waist. Small patches will be placed on your chest, which record your heart rate. A technician uses an ultrasound probe to take pictures while your heart is at rest. The technician will also take the same pictures immediately after reaching your peak exercise level. An exercise physiologist will continue monitoring your heart rate and electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG) for about 10 minutes.

If you’re unable to exercise, you’ll be given a similar test using a medicine called dobutamine, which simulates exercise by making your heart beat faster. 

After your procedure

You will likely feel a bit tired after the test. Most people can return to their normal activities after this test, but your physician may give you other directions based on your medical condition. A cardiologist will review the results of your test and send a full report to your physician. 

Timothy Obarski, DO, a cardiologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, describes an echocardiogram surface test and an echocardiogram stress test, as well as how these tests are performed.