Exercise Stress Echocardiogram

Female black patient lying down on hospital bed while nurse is checking her heart beat with stethoscope


What is an Exercise Stress Echocardiogram?

An exercise stress echocardiogram is done to see how your heart responds during stress or exercise and checks if you have narrowing in your heart arteries.  This procedure uses ultrasound that sends out high-frequency sound waves to create a moving picture as your heart works and displays images of the heart walls, muscles and valves.   


Learn more about ultrasounds


Why an Exercise Stress Echocardiogram? 

An exercise stress echocardiogram may be recommended by your doctor for the following reasons: 

  • To check for cardiac artery disease (CAD). 
  • To assess your condition if you’ve had a cardiac procedure such as bypass surgery or angioplasty
  • If you’ve had an abnormal treadmill stress test
  • To monitor how you’re responding to your heart medication. 
  • To help diagnose the cause of arrhythmia.  
  • To assess your risk for a heart attack. 
  • To check if it’s safe for you to begin an exercise program after recovery from a heart attack. 
  • To check your health status prior to a surgical procedure. 

Schedule a Consultation

Is an exercise stress echocardiogram a good choice for you? Speak with one of our doctors and find out.


Exercise Stress Echocardiogram Potential Risks and Complications 

An exercise stress echocardiogram may cause: 

  • Dizziness, lightheadedness and fainting. 
  • Shortness of breath. 
  • Nausea. 
  • Extreme fatigue. 
  • High blood pressure. 
  • Chest pain. 
  • Heart attack, which are extremely rare. 

Based on your specific medical condition, your Saint John’s Physician Partners cardiologist will discuss the benefits and risks of an exercise stress echocardiogram so you can make an informed decision.   


Preparing for an Exercise Stress Echocardiogram

Your cardiologist will give you specific instructions on preparing for this procedure, including: 


Discuss all the prescribed and over-the-counter medications or herbal supplements you are currently taking with your doctor. Beta-blockers or calcium blockers can make it hard for your heart rate to increase during the test. 

Do not

Smoke, or drink coffee, tea or cola at least 3 hours prior to the test


Tell your doctor if you’re pregnant or think you may be.


Tell your doctor of any conditions you may have such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. 


Wear loose, comfortable clothing. 

Doctor instructions

Follow your doctor’s instructions. 

What to Expect

What to Expect During an Exercise Stress Echocardiogram 

Here’s what you can expect during your noninvasive exercise stress echocardiogram: 

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During the Test

  • You’ll be connected to an electrocardiogram that will monitor your heart’s electrical activity during the entire procedure. 
  • The exam room will be darkened so the images can be seen clearly on the monitor. 
  • You’ll lie on your left side and have gel applied to your chest.  Then the transducer probe device will be moved around to get images of your heart at rest.  These will be compared with the ones taken during exercise. 
  • You will then move to the treadmill or stationary bike to begin exercising until you reach the desired heart rate based on your age and condition.  If you cannot exercise, you’ll be given medication that will increase your heart rate to the targeted level. 
  • The technician will continue to use the transducer device to take images of your heart during the entire exercise period.   
  • Be sure to let your technician know if you’re experiencing any chest pain, difficulty breathing or any discomfort any time during the procedure. 
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After the Test

After the test your cardiologist will let you know when you can expect the results, and give you instructions as to diet, activities and medications based on your particular situation. 


Exercise Stress Echocardiogram Specialists