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Heart Failure Health Center

Heart Failure and the Echocardiogram

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What Should I Do if I Have Diabetes?

If you have diabetes:

  • If you take insulin to control your blood sugar, ask your doctor what amount of your medication you should take the day of the test. Often, your doctor will tell you to take only half of your usual morning dose and to eat a light meal four hours before the test.
  • If you take pills to control your blood sugar, do not take your medication until after the test is complete unless otherwise directed by your doctor.
  • Do not take your diabetes medication and skip a meal before the test.
  • If you own a glucose monitor, bring it with you to check your blood sugar levels before and after your test. If you think your blood sugar is low, tell the lab personnel immediately.
  • Plan to eat and take your blood sugar medication following your test.

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.

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