Stress Echocardiogram

Why is this test performed?

The test is used to determine how well your heart tolerates activity, evaluate the function of your heart, determine your likelihood of having coronary artery disease and evaluate the effectiveness of your cardiac treatment plan.

Can I eat or drink on the day of the test?

Do not eat or drink anything except water for 4 hours before the test. Avoid caffeinated products (Cola, Mountain Dew, chocolate products, coffee or tea) for 24 hours before the test, as caffeine will interfere with the results of the test. Also, avoid decaffeinated or caffeine-free products, which contain trace amounts of caffeine. Do not smoke on the day of the test. Nicotine will interfere with the results of your test.

Should I take my medications the day of the test?

Do not take these heart medications for 48 hours before the test.

  • Beta Blockers (Atenolol, Tenormin)
  • Carvedilol (Coreg)
  • Metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol)
  • Propranolol (Inderal )


Do not take these heart medications for 24 hours before the test, unless your physician tells you otherwise, or if it is needed to treat chest discomfort:

  • Isosorbide Dinitrate (Dilatrate, Isordil, Sorbitrate)
  • Isosorbide Mononitrate (Ismo, Imdur, Monoket)
  • Nitroglycerin (Minitran, Nitropatches, Nitrostat)


Your physician may also ask you to stop taking other heart medications on the day of your test. Bring your medications with you the day of the test. Since many over-the-counter medications contain caffeine (such as diet pills, No Doz®, Excedrin® and Anacin®), DO NOT take any over-the-counter medication that contains caffeine for 24 hours before the test. Ask your physician, pharmacist or nurse if you have questions about other medications that may contain caffeine.

If you have any questions about your medications, ask your physician.

Guidelines for People with Diabetes

If you take insulin to control your blood sugar, ask your physician what amount of your medication you should take the day of the test. Often, your physician 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. Do not take your diabetes medication and skip a meal before the test. If you own a glucose monitor you may 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 diabetes medication following your test.

What should I wear on the day of the test?

You may wear anything you like. Before the test, you will change into a hospital gown. Please do not bring valuables with you the day of the test.

What happens during the test?

Your test will take place in the Echo Lab.

First, a cardiac sonographer will gently rub ten small areas on your chest and place electrodes (small, flat, sticky patches) on these areas. The electrodes are attached to an electrocardiograph (EKG) monitor that charts your heart’s electrical activity during the test. Before you start exercising, the sonographer will perform a resting EKG, measure your resting heart rate and take your blood pressure. The sonographer will ask you to lie on your left side on an exam table so he or she can perform a resting echocardiogram (also called an “echo”). An echocardiogram is a graphic outline of the heart’s movement created from ultrasound vibrations echoed from the heart’s structures. The sonographer will place a wand (called a transducer) on your chest to view an outline of the heart’s movement.

After the echo test, you will exercise on a treadmill. The lab personnel will ask you to start exercising and will gradually increase the intensity of exercise. You will be asked to continue exercising until you are exhausted. 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 EKG monitor that suggest the test should be stopped. When you can not exercise any longer, you will get off the treadmill,* quickly return to the exam table and lie on your left side so the sonographer can perform another echocardiogram.

How will I feel during the test?

You will be encouraged to exercise until you are exhausted. It is normal for your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate and perspiration to increase. As you stop exercising suddenly, it is normal to feel a little unsteady when getting off the treadmill and onto the exam table for the echocardiogram.

How long does the test take?

The appointment will take about 60 minutes. The actual exercise time is usually between 7 and 12 minutes.

How do I get the results of my test?

The results will be sent to your referring physician usually within 48 hours.

May I bring a family member or friend with me?

During the testing portion of the examination you will be brought back to the echo department.  Your family or friends will be required to wait in the main lobby during the procedure.


The above information was adapted from The Cleveland Clinic Website.