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  • Patient Information Guide for Dobutamine Stress Echocardiogram

    What is it?

    • A dobutamine stress echocardiogram is a test to evaluate the function of the heart at rest and particularly during the IV administration of dobutamine. It simulates physical activity for patients unable to exercise by increasing heart rate, blood pressure and myocardial contractility.
    • The echocardiogram machine uses ultrasound waves to produce images of the heart and does not use radioactivity.

    How should I prepare for it?

    • You can have a light breakfast with juice the morning of the test but no caffeine (no tea, coffee, decaffeinated products, chocolate, soda pop or medications containing caffeine).
    • Bring a list of all present medications.
    • Do not apply any body lotion or oil to your skin before the appointment, as this makes it difficult to obtain high-quality images.

    Should I discontinue my medications?

    • Your physician may decide to temporarily discontinue certain heart medications prior to the test. These are discontinued because they may offset the effectiveness of the test. Your physician MUST inform you whether to discontinue these heart medications 48 hours prior to the test. DO NOT STOP any medication on your own without checking with your physician. You may resume taking your medications following the exercise test.

    What will happen during the test?

    • Prior to the test, you will be asked to sign a consent form. Please read it carefully and if you have any questions, ask the technologist. He or she will explain the entire procedure before it begins.
    • After you have signed the consent form, you will be asked to remove your clothing from the waist up and given a gown to wear.
    • The echo technologist will record many images of your heart following the same protocol for the Echocardiogram.
    • The ECG technician will place several electrode pads on your chest after the images have been taken. These pads will be connected to an electrocardiograph (ECG) monitor so that your heart rhythm can be watched closely throughout the test.
    • The Dobutamine protocol usually involves 5 to 8 stages of infusion, each 3 minutes in length. Ultrasound images of the heart will be recorded during each stage. Termination occurs when the patient has either achieved 85% of the age-predicted maximum heart rate or prematurely due to serious side effects. IF 85% of the target heart rate has not been reached at maximum infusion rate, IV Atropine may be given to further enhance the heart rate response.

    How long will the test last?

    • The test lasts approximately 90 minutes depending on the number of images to be obtained.

    What is the risk of the test?

    • There are no known harmful effects from diagnostic cardiac ultrasound.
    • Potential side effects of Dobutamine include chest pain, hypotension, headache, dyspnea, flushing, palpitations or nausea. Treatments for adverse reactions include terminating the infusion (due to very short half-life), injection of a beta-blocker, the use of nitrates, injection of Diltiazem and other appropriate supportive therapy.

    How do I get the results?

    • The test will be read and reported by a cardiologist, and that written report will be sent to your physician.
    • Your physician will then explain the test results to you.
    • The technologist is not able to provide you with test results.

    When can I Start Taking my Heart Medication Again?

    • You can take your heart medications after completion of the test.

    Will I be able to Drive after the Test?

    • You may feel tired after the test. It is advisable to bring someone with you to drive you home.
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