Dobutamine Stress Echocardiogram

A dobutamine stress echocardiogram compares the performance of your heart at rest to that of your heart during exercise. The test involves an echocardiogram (ultrasound), an electrocardiogram (EKG) and the use of a medication called dobutamine.

This test is used if you are unable to exercise or your doctor wants to measure your heart’s response to this medication. Dobutamine is administered through an intravenous line and mimics the effects of exercise on the heart by increasing the heart rate and contractility (pumping mechanism).

This test can:

  • Show if certain areas of the heart muscle are not getting enough oxygen-rich blood during exercise
  • Evaluate the function of your heart and valves during peak stress or increased heart rate
  • Evaluate your symptoms during peak stress to see if there are cardiac causes for your symptoms
  • Determine your likelihood of having coronary artery disease
  • Determine how your body and heart will respond to increased stress related to anesthesia (pre-surgery evaluation)

What Do I Do to Prepare for the Test?

  • A nurse will call you the day before your test to give you instructions.
  • Do not eat or drink anything four hours before the test except for sips of water with your medications.
  • Take your prescribed medications at the usual times, with a small sip of water, unless your doctor tells you not to. If your doctor has asked you to not take certain medications before the test, let the nurse who calls you know.
  • If you have diabetes, please contact your doctor for specific instructions about taking your medications before the test.
  • On the day of the test, please wear comfortable clothes and shoes suitable for exercising.

What Happens During the Dobutamine Stress Echocardiogram?

  • Your test will either take place in the echocardiography section of the Noninvasive Cardiac Laboratory, or as part of your hospital stay as an inpatient. The testing area is supervised by a cardiologist.
  • Small pads called electrodes will be placed on your upper body to record the electrical activity of your heart. Your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate and oxygen level will be monitored.
  • A nurse will ask you questions regarding your medications and perform an assessment on you. An intravenous line will be placed in your arm for the administration of medications.
  • A physician will review the risks and benefits of the stress test, and you will sign a consent form prior to starting the stress test.
  • Dobutamine will be given through your intravenous line and increased slowly until you reach a target heart rate (determined by the doctor based on your age and physical condition). The medication will cause your heart rate to rise and you may feel it beating more strongly. It may cause a warm, flushed feeling, and in some cases a mild headache.
  • During the stress test, it is important to let the doctor or nurse know if you feel unusual sensations in your chest, arms, neck or jaw, if you feel lightheadedness or dizziness, heart palpitations (the feeling that your heart is beating too fast), or shortness of breath.
  • After the test you will rest until your heart rate and blood pressure return to normal levels. You will get dressed and the nurse will take you back into the waiting room.

How Long Does the Test Take?

Your appointment will take approximately 90 to 120 minutes. The actual infusion time is usually about 10 to 15 minutes.

How Do I Get the Results of My Test?

After our echocardiologists have reviewed the images, their final report will be entered into your electronic medical record. Your ordering physician will have access to these results and can discuss them with you.

To schedule an appointment, call our scheduling office at 310-423-6157.