Locations across Queensland within Queensland Cardiovascular Group

Phone (07) 3016 1111

Diagnostic Tests:
Exercise Stress Echocardiography

exercise stress echocardiography

What is Exercise Stress Echocardiography?

An Exercise Stress Echocardiogram (Stress Echo) is a test which examines your heart before and after exercise to give the Cardiologist more information about your heart function.

Click here to learn about our other cardiac diagnostic tests

How do I Prepare?

You will be required to fast for 2 hours prior to the test and wear comfortable walking shoes. A gown will be available but it may be advisable to wear comfortable clothing to walk in. You may have a shower following the test if you wish.

Please also provide a list of your medications so that these can be noted prior to the test.

exercise stress echocardiography

What Should I Expect?

First Stage

  1. The Cardiac Sonographer will begin first by explaining the test and performing an ECG which will remain in place throughout the test.
  2. They will perform a resting echocardiogram which is a non-invasive, ultrasound examination of your heart. This will assess the heart function at rest.
  3. You will be asked to lie on your left-hand side for the majority of the test and a transducer will be placed on your chest to take the first set of ultrasound images.
  4. Ultrasound gel is used to improve contact and imaging quality. The transducer may need to be applied firmly against the chest wall. If this is uncomfortable, please inform your Sonographer.
  5. Images are taken from several positions, including the left side of the chest adjacent to the sternum (breast bone), the area under the left breast, the upper abdomen and sometimes the base of the neck.
  6. It is normal to hear loud noises which are the amplified ultrasound signal of blood flowing through the heart chambers and valves.

Second Stage

  1. Once the Cardiologist is present, you will be required to walk on a treadmill according to a protocol. The speed and slope of the treadmill will increase every 1-3 minutes according to your fitness level and the heart rate response.
  2. During the test your blood pressure and ECG will be monitored regularly and noted by the Cardiologist and Cardiac Sonographer. You will be asked to advise them should you have any symptoms such as chest pain, marked breathlessness and to let them know when you wish to stop.
  3. Once the exercise phase is complete, you will be quickly guided back to the bed by the Cardiologist for a second set of ultrasound images to be taken. It is important that these images are acquired quickly while your heart rate remains elevated. This will give the Cardiologist more information about your heart function under stress. You are given a few minutes to recover, then a final set of ultrasound images are taken once you have done so.

For patients who have difficulty with walking, there is an alternative test called a Dobutamine Stress Echocardiogram.


This is a very low risk procedure and the risks of this test are no different to those of a standard stress test. There is no radiation exposure with this test.

The most common occur only occur in 3:1,000 people and include:

  • Chest pain which can be treated by stopping the test and administering medication.
  • Development of fluid in the lungs which will result in the cessation of the test and administration of medication.
  • An abnormal heart beat or “arrhythmia” which may be treated by stopping the test and may also be treated with or without medication.

There is a risk of heart attack in 1:2,500 people and a risk of death in 1:10,000 people.
Please advise our staff prior to the test if you have a history of previous/recent heart attack, aortic dissection, recent fluid or clots in the lungs, severe heart valve disease, heart arrhythmias, palpitations, or recent increase in chest pain you should advise the staff before you commence the test.

Exercise Stress Echocardiography Results

A report will be generated by the Cardiologist and the Sonographer, which will then be sent electronically to your referring Doctor on the same day. You should contact your referring Doctor for your results and to discuss if any follow up is required.

The accuracy of Stress Echocardiography is approximately 85-90%. For a variety of technical and physical reasons there can be false positives (meaning the test suggests a severe artery blockage but subsequent angiography shows only a mild to moderate blockage) or false negatives (meaning to test appears normal and does not pick up a severely blocked artery).

Depending on your symptoms the reporting doctor or your referring doctor may recommend further testing using a different technique (eg. CT Coronary Angiography, Nuclear Scanning or Invasive Angiography).

Learn about our Other Cardiac Diagnostic Tests

electrocardiogram (ecg) icon
transthoracic echocardiogram
a clock and a drawing of a human body.
Holter Monitor
cardiac event monitor
Event Monitor
implanted cardiac monitor
Implanted Cardiac Monitor
transoesophageal echocardiography
Transoesophageal Echocardiogram (TOE)
exercise stress test
Exercise Stress Test
ct coronary angiogram
CT Coronary Angiogram (CTCA)
calcium score test
CTCA Calcium Score
dobutamine stress echo
Dobutamine Stress Echo
exercise stress echocardiography
Exercise Stress Echocardiography
24 hour blood pressure monitor
24 Hour Blood Pressure Monitor