Dobutamine Stress Echocardiography (Echo)

This type of echocardiogram involves using dobutamine, a medication that stimulates your heart similar to the way exercise does. It increases your heart rate and the squeezing function of your heart. Your health care provider gives you dobutamine through an IV. He or she then takes ultrasound pictures of your heart, using sound waves through a device on your chest wall (echocardiography). The pictures are taken before and after you get dobutamine, in a specific protocol. This allows your doctor to see if blood is flowing properly through the arteries of your heart, to further evaluate heart valve function, and to see how well your heart is working. The test is often done in a hospital or cardiac testing center.

Image of patient undergoing procedure

Before Your Test

Tell your doctor what medicines you take, and ask if you should take any before the test. Don’t eat, smoke, drink alcohol, or have any caffeine for four hours before the test. Sips of water are okay. Make sure to wear a two-piece outfit. You may need to undress from the waist up and put on a short hospital gown. Allow one extra hour for checking in and getting ready for the test.

image of patient undergoing stress echocardiography

During Your Test

  • Your health care provider places small pads (electrodes) on your chest to record the electrical activity of your heart.

  • He or she starts an intravenous (IV) line in your arm.

  • A painless device (transducer) coated with cool gel is moved firmly over your chest. This device creates ultrasonic, inaudible sound waves that make images of your heart on a screen.

  • Your health care provider slowly gives you dobutamine through the IV, in incremental doses about every three minutes. It is normal to feel your heart pound for a few minutes, while the drug is being given.

  • Your health care provider will take echo images before the infusion of the drug, during the infusion, and after your pulse returns to normal. Your health care provider may give you a second drug to slow your heartbeat to a normal level.

  • Your health care provider will monitor your heart and blood pressure during and after the test.

After Your Test

When the test is over, you may return to your normal routine. Ask your doctor about taking any medicine that you were told to skip before the test. Your doctor will discuss your test results with you. The test results help your doctor plan your treatment and any other tests you may need.

Report Any Symptoms

Be sure to tell your doctor if you feel any of the following during the test:

  • Chest, arm, or jaw discomfort

  • Irregular heartbeat

  • Feeling flushed

  • Palpitations

  • Shortness of breath

  • Nausea

  • Headache

  • Numbness

 

Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Petersen, Sheralee, MPAS, PA-C
Last Review Date: 3/15/2013
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