It is common to be mistaken about Echocardiography and Stress Echocardiography, here we explain their differences, so you can understand the procedures behind each test.
What is an Echocardiography?
Let’s start by defining what an Echocardiography is. An echocardiogram is an ultrasound procedure that evaluates your heart health. Ultrasound uses non-radiation sound wave technology to create an echo image and analysis of the chambers, valves and surrounding vessels of your heart. It will tell your Doctor how well your heart pumps and whether your heart valves are working well.
What is a Stress Echocardiography?
The Stress Echocardiography, also known as Stress Echo, is a procedure that can be used to screen for any significant blockages in the heart arteries known as the “coronary” arteries. It also provides information on how well your body responds to different levels of activity. We generally don’t have good associations with the word “stress”, but in reality you can replace the word “stress” with “activity” to give a more accurate idea of what takes place during this test.
A two-dimensional ultrasound is performed before and after exercise and the electrical activity of the heart is monitored while you walk on a treadmill. The speed and incline of the treadmill increase gradually during the test to assess how well heart responds to different levels of activity.
Why do I need to do these tests?
Both these tests are essential to define your medical condition (if they are prescribed by your doctor) and can help getting to know your heart’s conditions, such as:
- Dimensions of the heart chambers and how well they function
- Amount of blood your heart pumps
- Structure and function of the heart valves
- Screening for any significant blockages in the heart arteries known as the “coronary” arteries
- Your functional capacity and blood pressure response to exercise
How long does it take to run these tests?
It depends from where you take them, in our clinics we carry out these tests continuously.
Generally speaking, it takes:
- From 30 to 45 Minutes for the Echocardiogram test
- From 45 to 60 Minutes for the Stress Echocardiogram test
Is there any preparation involved?
There is no preparation involved in an echocardiogram.
For a stress echocardiogram however, it’s best to avoid using moisturiser or cream on the day of the test to allow the ECG “dots” to stick well. Be sure to wear comfortable clothing and foot ware that you would normally wear to go walking. Your Doctor may also advise you to stop taking specific medications on the day of the test. Please don’t cease any medications before discussing this with your referring Doctor.
For both tests it’s a good idea to wear two-piece clothing on the day.
Can I resume normal activities after I have the tests?
Yes. Unless we advise you otherwise on the day of the test, you can resume all your usual activities.
What are the risks of having an Echocardiogram (or a Stress Echocardiogram)?
An echocardiogram is completely safe and non-invasive, just like a normal ultrasound.
A stress echocardiogram is generally safe and painless.
Some rare complications can include:
- An abnormal heart rhythm
- Dizziness or fainting
There can be other very rare complications of a stress echocardiogram that can be discussed with your referring Doctor.
Are there any other cardiac tests that you can have at Life Cardiac Services and Life Medical Imaging Central Coast?
As well as echocardiograms and stress echocardiograms, we offer a comprehensive range of cardiac investigations, including:
- Cardiac CT scans (Calcium Scores and Coronary Angiograms)
- Exercise Stress Tests
- ECGs (electrocardiograms)
- 24-hour ECG monitoring (Holter Monitor) or up to 1-month monitoring (Heartbug Monitor)
- 24-hour blood pressure monitors
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