Exercise Stress Echocardiogram
Our 2021 enhanced Ultimate Health Assessment now includes an exercise stress echocardiogram which replaces our exercise electrocardiogram test. Preventicum is one of the first UK clinics to introduce this test as part of a screening health assessment. Stress echocardiography uses specialist ultrasound imaging combined with the exercise stress test to show how well your heart muscle is working to pump blood to your body, and it is most often used to detect a decrease in blood flow to the heart from narrowing of the coronary arteries. The test assesses heart function and structure, and can diagnose underlying heart disease.
What happens during the test?
The test will be led by Tanya Carr our lead in stress echocardiography, and assisted by lead cardiac physiologist Anthony Ekins. It will start with a resting electrocardiogram (ECG) which is used to diagnose electrical heart abnormalities, during this test, we will place 10 small, sticky patches called electrodes to your chest. You will then be asked to lie on, your side to perform an echocardiogram (ultrasound) of your heart. Following this, you will start exercising on a treadmill whilst our lead cardiac physiologist monitors your blood pressure and heart rhythm, the incline and speed of the treadmill will increase at increments to raise your heart rate as much as possible. As soon as our team feel that you have reached your maximum heart rate, they will stop the exercise part of this test and perform another ultrasound of your heart to capture images of your heart working under stress. This can help to show if there is the possibility of significant coronary artery disease. We will monitor you until your ECG, heart rate, and blood pressure return to normal. The test usually takes approximately 50-60 minutes.
How do I prepare for a stress test?
- Do not not eat for 3-4 hours before the test.
- Do not drink coffee or take any medications or supplements that contain caffeine before the test.
- If you take medications, ask your doctor whether you should take them on the day of the test. You should not take certain heart medications, such as beta-blockers or nitrates before the test. Let your doctor know if you take medication to control diabetes as well.
- We will provide a tracksuit for this test and you should bring trainers with you.
What will the results tell me?
You will discuss the results from your exercise stress echocardiogram on the same day with your Preventicum doctor in your results consultation. Stress echocardiography has a high accuracy rate for detection of significant coronary stenoses. If your results are normal, your heart is functioning well, and you probably do not have coronary artery disease. Abnormal results may mean that there is a blockage in your blood vessels or that you have previously suffered a heart attack that has caused some damage (you may be unaware of this). Early diagnosis of coronary heart disease is key to treating this effectively.
What is coronary heart disease?
Early diagnosis of coronary heart disease is important as it does not always have obvious symptoms. Coronary heart disease is caused by a build-up of fatty substances in the blood vessels supplying the heart. This fatty material is called atheroma and over time, it can build up, narrowing your arteries and reducing the blood flow to the heart. In some people, it can cause chest pain (angina) or serious problems like heart attacks where a piece of atheroma breaks off, forming a blood clot that can block the coronary artery. The good news is that the main treatments for coronary heart disease are healthy lifestyle changes and medication, although surgery may be needed if it is severe.
Sources: NHS, BHF & Healthline