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Heart Failure and the Echocardiogram

What Happens During a Stress Echocardiogram?

Before your stress echo, a technician will gently rub several small areas on your chest and place electrodes (small, flat, sticky patches) on these areas. The electrodes are attached to an electrocardiograph monitor (ECG or EKG) that charts your heart's electrical activity during the test.

An intravenous line (IV) will be inserted into a vein in your arm so medication (such as dobutamine) can be delivered directly into your bloodstream. The technician will perform a resting EKG, measure your resting heart rate and take your blood pressure. The doctor or nurse will administer the medication into the IV while the technician continues to obtain echo images. The medication will cause your heart to react as if you were exercising.

At regular intervals, the lab personnel will ask how you are feeling. Please tell them if you feel chest, arm or jaw pain or discomfort; short of breath; dizzy; lightheaded, or if you have any other unusual symptoms.

The lab personnel will watch for any changes on the ECG monitor that suggest the test should be stopped. The IV will be removed from your arm once all of the medication has entered your bloodstream.

The medication may cause a warm, flushing feeling and in some cases, a mild headache. If you begin to notice these symptoms or other symptoms of concern such as chest discomfort, excessive shortness of breath, or irregular heartbeats, tell the lab personnel immediately.

The appointment will take about 60 minutes.

What Happens During the Transesophageal Echo?

Before a transesophageal echo, you will be asked to remove dentures and lie down on your left side on the exam table. You will be given some intravenous fluids and a mild sedative (medicine to help you relax). Your heart rate and blood pressure will be monitored throughout the procedure. Finally, an anesthetic spray is sprayed into the throat to reduce the gag reflex.

Then a small transducer attached to a long tube is inserted into the esophagus via the mouth. This won't affect breathing, but swallowing may be temporarily affected. Next the doctor will perform the test to visualize the heart.

When completed, the tube is withdrawn. Vital signs will be monitored for about 20-30 minutes. You cannot eat or drink until the anesthetic spray wears off -- about an hour.

The test takes about 90 minutes to perform.

You will need to arrange transportation home since you may feel groggy from the sedative.



WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on May 16, 2012

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