Stress Testing: What It Is And 4 Main Signs You Need It

A dobutamine stress echocardiogram is a diagnostic imaging procedure used to assess how well the heart works in people who have or may be at risk of having heart disease. Stress testing may be done as part of a routine physical examination, or it may be ordered if a person has symptoms of coronary artery disease (CAD), such as angina chest pain, heart attack, strokes, or mini-stroke. People who have diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or a family history of heart disease may also be tested to determine their risk for cardiovascular disease.

What Does Stress Testing Entail?

During a stress echocardiogram, the patient receives dobutamine, a medication that stimulates the heart to contract more forcefully and increases its pumping ability to meet increased demands during exercise.

During this test, a person typically lies on a table and is connected to an IV, ECG monitor, blood pressure monitor, and echocardiogram. The test is performed in a cardiac stress test lab or cardiac catheterization laboratory by cardiologists or other physicians. A stress test is considered positive if the heart cannot compensate for dobutamine stress and does not pump enough blood.

When Should You Go for Stress Testing?

If you have any one of these symptoms, a physician should refer you to a specialist for an echocardiogram:

Wheezing or Difficulty Breathing

One of the most important signs that you need echocardiography is wheezing, a high-pitched whistling sound during breathing. Wheezing could indicate that your airway is being squeezed by fluid, either from heart failure or a lung problem, such as pneumonia.

Shortness of Breath or Rapid Breathing

If you experience rapid breathing that is unexplained by physical activity, echocardiography may be necessary to find out what's wrong. Stress testing can accurately diagnose problems like fluid around the lungs, blood clots in the lungs, or heart failure.

Swelling In the Extremities

Swelling in the legs or ankles can be caused by many things, including heart problems. One of the most common causes is fluid around the lungs (pulmonary edema). Other possibilities include congestive heart failure and pressure on blood vessels, like from a tumor or obesity. Echocardiography is essential for diagnosis.

Chest Pain or Chest Tightness

Chest pain can be caused by many things, including heart disease. However, it is also common for chest pain to have no clear cause. Echocardiography may be necessary to check the chambers and valves of your heart for any abnormalities or injury. It can even detect problems in the arteries that lead to the heart or problems in the accompanying veins.

The Bottom Line

Do you frequently experience shortness of breath or swelling in the externalities? Do you have chest pain? Is your heart racing or pounding abnormally in the middle of the night? These are common symptoms that prompt doctor visits and lead to a referral for stress testing.

For more information, contact a local clinic, like Alpert Zales & Castro Pediatric Cardiology.