Features September 2012 Issue

Stress Echo Appropriate Only for Patients with Certain Risk Factors

As part of a stress echocardiography test, you will be asked to either walk on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bike to get your heart rate up. Then you will lie down on your left side and ultrasound images will be immediately taken to see your heart after exertion.

Stress Echo Appropriate Only for Patients with Certain Risk Factors

New research shows that asymptomatic patients arenít likely to need the stress test that measures heart function and the condition of the heartís valves.

Of the many screening tests heart patients may be advised to undergo, the stress echocardiography (echo) test may be among the more misunderstood and overused. If you have heart disease, you may have taken the test at least once. It starts with you lying on a table in your doctorís office, while a transducer is held over your chest to provide ultrasound images of your heart at rest. Youíre then asked to walk on a treadmill or pedal an exercise bike, with ever-increasing resistance. After several minutes, more ultrasound images are taken of your heart working during that exercise. A stress echo is effective at showing the size and shape of the heart, as well as how well the chambers and valves are functioning. The test is painless, but it can be expensive. And whatís more, itís often not necessary.

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