Stress Echocardiogram

(Also known as: Stress echo, exercise echo, Dobutamine echo)


A stress echocardiogram (stress echo) is an imaging test that uses ultrasound to show how well your heart works during the stress of exercise. This test is used to diagnose the presence or absence of coronary artery disease.

An echocardiogram is performed at rest, then during low, moderate and peak levels of exercise using a supine bicycle or using a drug called Dobutamine which simulates exercise.


  1. A technologist or sonographer will explain the test to you, take a brief medical history, and answer any questions you may have. Your blood pressure, heart rate, and electrocardiogram (ECG) will be monitored before, during, and after the test.
  2. You will be asked to remove all upper body clothing, put on a gown with the opening to the front, and lie down on an examination table.
  3. Adhesive electrodes will be applied to your chest to monitor and record ECG signals. The sites on your chest will be cleaned with alcohol and shaved if necessary. A mild abrasion may also be used to ensure an interference-free and continuous ECG recording.
  4. Some stress echo scans require the use of a substance called a contrast agent. The contrast agent helps to improve image quality.
  5. A technologist or nurse will insert an intravenous (IV) line into a vein in one of your arms.
  6. The sonographer will apply some gel to a small ultrasound probe, position it on the left side of your chest, and will take several resting images of your heart. In order to obtain good quality images, it is necessary to apply some pressure on your chest with the probe.
  7. Your resting blood pressure, heart rate, and ECG will be recorded.
  8. You will undergo a stress test. To do this, you will be asked to either pedal a supine bicycle (while lying down) or will be given the drug Dobutamine which simulates exercise. On the bicycle, the resistance is very light at the beginning but will increase in difficulty every two minutes. It is very important that you pedal as long as possible to reach the target workload and ensure that the test is accurate. This usually takes about 10 minutes.
  9. You will be monitored throughout the test. If a problem occurs, the technologist will stop the test right away. It is very important for you to tell the technologist if you experience any symptoms, such as chest pain, dizziness, unusual shortness of breath, or extreme fatigue.
  10. Echo images of the heart will be recorded by the sonographer at separate times during exercise.
  11. Your blood pressure, heart rate, and ECG will be monitored for 3 to 6 minutes after exercise. 
  12. The data will be reviewed by a cardiologist after the test is completed. A report will be sent to the doctor(s) involved in your care. 

Patient instructions

Before your test

For 48 hours prior to your test, stop Viagra, Cialis and Levitra.

On the day of your test

  • For six hours prior to your test: Do not consume anything with caffeine.
  • For two hours prior to your test: Do not eat, drink or smoke.
  • Take your usual medications unless otherwise directed by your physician. Bring all of your medications with you in the original bottles.
  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes.

After your test

There are no restrictions after the stress echo.

Additional info

  • When you come to the Heart Institute, please check in with central registration in the front lobby. Then proceed to the S-Level and wait in the waiting room for your name to be called.
  • The stress echo takes 60 to 75 minutes to complete.
  • If you have any questions prior to your stress echo, please call 613-696-7066, Monday to Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.