Before we delve into what you need to know about a stress ultrasound, we will explain what exactly it is. Essentially, it’s a stress test and the procedure helps to determine how efficiently your blood vessels and heart are working. During the test, you will exercise while your doctor monitors both your heart rhythm and your blood pressure. The doctor will take images of your heart as you reach peak heart rate levels. This will show whether your heart is receiving enough oxygen and blood during exercise.
Your doctor may order one of these texts if you have experienced chest pain that they believe is the result of a heart disease or a heart attack. The test will also determine how much exercise is safe for you to undertake and how various treatments are working.
How To Prepare
The test may be in a hospital, lab or even in a clinic. It takes around an hour or so to complete. There are a few preparations you must make before your test. Firstly, you should not drink or eat anything for at least four hours before your test.
Your doctor will give you further instructions – there are a few things that can interfere with the test, so you may be asked to forego smoking in the run-up to the test, to avoid medications containing caffeine, caffeine itself, and your doctor may ask you to stop taking certain medications on the day.
Ensure you are wearing comfortable clothing that is loose-fitting, remember, you’ll be exercising so you need to wear appropriate footwear.
The first act of the day will be for the doctor to take a resting ultrasound. This will see if your heart is functioning at a resting rate. The doctor will attach electrodes to track your heartbeat, and will likely take your blood pressure throughout. You will be asked to lie on your side so the doctor can complete the ultrasound.
Once you’ve had the initial ultrasound you will enter the stress testing portion of the testing. This will involve exercise, which may be riding a stationary bike or running on a treadmill. The doctor may increase the intensity, depending on your fitness levels. Generally, there will be between six and ten minutes of exercise to get your heart rate as high as possible.
If at any point you start to feel weak, dizzy or experience chest pain – you should alert your doctor.
Once the exercise portion is done the doctor will immediately perform an ultrasound. This is to see how your heart responds to being put under stress. Once your heart rate returns to normal the doctor will again check your blood pressure and heart rate.
The Test Results
Your doctor will provide you with a full explanation of the results. If they are normal it means your heart is working. An abnormal result may mean there’s a blockage or that your heart has been damaged by a heart attack. This test can provide your doctor with important information about your heart and having it completed can prevent complicates and guide your doctor in addressing your health issues.