Dobutamine Stress Test

Your Care Explained > Tests and Procedures : Dobutamine Stress Test

A dobutamine stress test may be used to assess the heart muscle under stress when exercise is not an option due to a person’s medical condition.

This test may be used in place of an exercise test in women who have difficulty walking or who have diabetes. Instead of having you walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bicycle, a physician will use an intravenous dobutamine, which causes the heart to beat faster and mimics the effects of exercise on the heart.

Preparing for Dobutamine Stress Testing

Your physician will explain the procedure to you and offer you the opportunity to ask any questions that you might have. Let your doctor know if you are pregnant or suspect that you may be pregnant, if you have a pacemaker, if you are allergic to any substances or drugs, and all prescription and over-the-counter medications and herbal supplements that you are taking. You will be asked to sign a consent form acknowledging that you understand the test and giving your permission to do it.

If fasting is required, your physician will give you specific instructions. In some cases, cigarettes and caffeine may be restricted several hours before testing.

What to Expect:

  • You may need to avoid certain foods or fast before the test.
  • A dim room helps the technicians clearly see monitors.
  • You will hear “whooshing” or “slapping” sounds.
  • Your heart will beat faster as dobutamine enters your IV.
  • The test should take an hour or two.
  • You’ll be able to go home on your own.

Listen and Learn:

Detailed information on dobutamine stress echocardiogram, including the reasons and preparation for the procedure, how the procedure is performed, and after care.
(MP3 Audio File) >

Having a Dobutamine Stress Test

When you check in you will be given an identification bracelet and escorted to an exam room where you will be asked to change into a hospital gown and remove any jewelry that may interfere with the procedure. You may wear your glasses, dentures or hearing aids if you use any of these. You will be given a chance to use the bathroom before the test begins.

An intravenous (IV) line, through which the dobutamine and fluids will be infused, will be started in your hand or arm prior to the procedure. You will be helped onto a padded table and positioned on your left side, although you may be asked to change position during the test.

Your heart’s response to dobutamine will be monitored by both electrocardiogram (ECG) and echocardiogram. The room will be darkened so that the technologist can better see the images of your heart on the echo monitor. Small adhesive electrode patches will be placed on your chest and connected to an ECG monitor. Your chest will also be daubed with a warm gel, which will conduct signals from the echo transducer. Your vital signs (heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate and oxygenation level) will also be monitored throughout the test.

Once the dobutamine is started, it will be increased every few minutes until either your target heart rate or the maximum dose of dobutamine has been reached; you may feel your heart begin to beat faster. The technologist will move the transducer probe around on your chest so that all areas and structures of your heart can be observed. You will feel a slight pressure on your chest from the probe. When the Doppler mode of the echo is switched on, you may hear the “whoosh-whoosh” of blood moving through your heart. When the target heart rate or the maximum dobutamine infusion has been reached, the medication will be stopped. Your heart rate, blood pressure, ECG and echo will continue to be monitored for 10 to 15 minutes until they have returned to the baseline state.

Once all the images have been taken, the technologist will wipe the gel from your chest, remove the ECG electrode pads and the IV line. You will be helped off the table and will be able to dress and return home.

Learning Your Results

The radiologists will analyze the results and send a report to your cardiologist. He or she will discuss them with you within a few days of the test.

Date Last Modified: January 21, 2011

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