Dobutamine stress echocardiogram

A Dobutamine Stress Echo is a combination of an echocardiogram and a medication called Dobutamine to help see your heart's response to physical stress.

What is a Dobutamine stress echo?

A Dobutamine Stress Echo is a combination of an echocardiogram and a medication called Dobutamine which is given through an IV line.

Dobutamine is a drug which increases the heart rate and strength of its contractions, mimicking the hearts response to exercise. It is administered while the doctor performs an echocardiogram to determine the cause of symptoms experienced during physical stress or exercise.

This test is particularly useful in patients who are unable to use the treadmill (eg pain in legs, can’t walk very far, fast and/or for a long period of time).

Dobutamine stress echocardiogram

Why is a Dobutamine stress echo done?

You may be asked to have a Dobutamine stress echo for the following reasons:

  • To assess the heart structure and function
  • To know the extent of valvular heart disease
  • To evaluate the status of the heart before cardiac surgery
  • It is done to determine the limits of safe exercise in a patient who just had a previous heart attack or in the design of a
    treatment plan.

What does a Dobutamine stress echo involve?

You will be asked to remove your clothing from the waist up and stickers (electrodes) will be placed on your chest to allow the electrical activity of your heart to be monitored (ECG).

A blood pressure cuff will also be placed around your arm. The doctor will first take an echocardiogram before drug administration. A small plastic tube (cannula) will be inserted into a vein in your arm through which a low dose of Dobutamine will then be delivered.

The dose will be slowly increased every three minutes whilst images of the heart are taken simultaneously. It may also be necessary to inject a contrast (dye) which makes the images easier to visualise.

During the test, you will feel a faster and stronger heart beat as if you were exercising. The drug infusion will continue until you reach at least 85% of your target heart rate (220 beats per minute minus your age).

If you experience symptoms such as chest discomfort, shortness of breath, dizziness or any significant change in your blood pressure or ECG, the drug may be stopped before this point.

The effects of the drug are short lived and you will be monitored until your heart rate and blood pressure return to baseline.

How long does a Dobutamine stress echo take?

The procedure takes approximately 45 minutes.

Frequently asked questions

We ask that you avoid heavy foods and caffeinated drinks for at least two hours before the test. You should check with your doctor to find out whether you need to stop some of your regular medications before the test. It may be necessary to stop some drugs (such as beta blockers) for 24-48 hours beforehand.

You should also avoid smoking at least three hours before the test as nicotine can interfere with results.

Let your doctor know if you have a pacemaker.

Let your doctor also know if you are pregnant.

The results of the test are sent to the referring doctor within 24-48 hours of completion. The doctor will discuss these results with you.

Side effects of a Dobutamine stress echo may include:

  • Chest pain
  • Irregular heart beats/palpitations
  • Severely high blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Rarely heart attack

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