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  • Patient Information Guide for Exercise Stress Echocardiogram

    What is it?

    • An exercise stress echocardiogram is a test to evaluate the function of the heart at rest and particularly after you exercise on a treadmill in stages.
    • 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).
    • You should bring comfortable exercise clothing and shoes (preferably running shoes) appropriate for exercising on a treadmill.
    • 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 the 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.
    • You will exercise on a treadmill, which increases its speed and incline in stages. As exercise increases, your heart rate and blood pressure will rise. This is a normal response and they will be monitored along with your ECG.
    • You will be encouraged to exercise until a target heart rate (determined by age) has been reached, because this increases the effectiveness of the test. If you experience any symptoms, at any time, such as chest pain, shortness of breath or light-headedness, immediately tell the staff monitoring the test so adjustments can be made.
    • When the treadmill stops, the technologist will help you on the quick and safe transition towards the examination bed besides the treadmill, to record additional images in less than 60 seconds.

    How long will the test last?

    • The test lasts approximately 60 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.
    • The exercise portion of the test constitutes a risk factor equivalent to 1,500 kilometers of highway driving.

    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?

    • Yes.
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