Exercise Echocardiography

Your Care Explained > Tests and Procedures : Exercise Echocardiography

An exercise echocardiogram is actually two echocardiograms, taken before and after a treadmill exercise session.

It is performed to determine how your heart reacts when you are exercising to capacity.

What to Expect:

  • One echocardiogram is taken before exercise, one after.
  • A dim room helps technicians clearly see monitors.
  • You’ll ride a bicycle or walk a treadmill.
  • The difficulty will be increased gradually.
  • You can stop the moment you feel discomfort.
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Preparing for Exercise Echocardiography

There is usually nothing to do before your appointment. When you are called into the echocardiography suite, you will be given a gown to wear and may be asked to remove your clothing above the waist and any jewelry or other objects that may interfere with the procedure. You will then be shown to a darkened room where you will lie on a table or bed, positioned on your left side. A pillow or wedge may be placed behind your back for support.

Having an Exercise Echocardiogram

You will be connected to an ECG monitor that records the electrical activity of the heart and monitors the heart during the procedure using small, adhesive electrodes. The ECG tracings that record the electrical activity of the heart will be compared to the images displayed on the echocardiogram monitor. The technologist will place warmed gel on your chest and then place the transducer probe on the gel. You will feel a slight pressure as the technologist positions the transducer to get the desired image of your heart.

During the test, the technologist will move the transducer probe around and apply varying amounts of pressure to obtain images of different locations and structures of your heart. The amount of pressure behind the probe should not be uncomfortable; if it is, let the technologist know. As the technologist moves the probe you may hear a series of beeps, and, in the case of Doppler, swooshing or slapping noises, which are amplifications of the sounds made by your heart and the blood streaming through it. The technologist will be watching the images in the monitor as he or she moves the probe over your heart.

After the first echocardiogram images have been obtained, you will walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike until you have reached your target heart rate (determined by the physician based on your age and physical condition). Once you have reached your target heart rate, you will continue to exercise for another minute or so. However, if you feel any chest or leg pain, or have breathing difficulties or heart palpitations, you should tell the technologist and the test will be stopped immediately.

You will again lie on the table or bed while a second set of echocardiogram images is obtained.

After the procedure has been completed, the technologist will wipe the gel from your chest and remove the ECG electrode pads. You may get dressed and leave.

Learning Your Results

A radiologist experienced in interpreting echocardiograms will analyze your images and send a report to your cardiologist. A few days after your test your cardiologist will discuss your results with you.

Date Last Modified: January 21, 2011

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