Angina refers to chest pain that is related to cardiovascular problems. Angina can occur both during exercise and at rest, and in addition to chest pain, you may experience radiating pain in your jaw, neck, and down your left arm during an angina attack. To determine if the cause of your chest pain is cardiac-related angina, your cardiologist may recommend a test known as a stress echocardiogram. Also known as a "stress echo," this test is a combination of cardiac stress testing and an echocardiogram. Here are some things to expect when getting your stress echo.
Treadmill Stress Testing
Before the stress testing component of your stress echo examination begins, the healthcare provider will attach electrodes to your body so that your heart activity can be monitored during your exercise. After the electrodes have been attached, you will step on an exercise treadmill while wearing comfortable non-slip shoes and begin to slowly walk. At different intervals of the test, the healthcare provider will turn up the speed so that you are walking faster, all while monitoring your cardiac output.
If your condition remains stable, the incline on the treadmill will also be increased so that your cardiovascular system can be assessed while you are performing mildly strenuous exercise. If at any time the heart monitor detects any serious abnormalities, or if you experience angina, faintness, shortness of breath, dizziness, or if you become ill, the test will be stopped.
After you have completed the treadmill stress testing component of your stress echo, you will then step off of the stress testing machine and then quickly lie down on the exam table. For the echocardiogram component of your stress echo, the technician will apply a special lubricant to an instrument called a transducer and then gently press the traducer against your chest and surrounding areas. The transducer looks like a wand and it generates sound waves so that when the technician moves it around, real-time images of your cardiovascular system are captured.
The echocardiogram is a painless diagnostic imaging test and is considered very safe because it only uses sound waves instead of radiation to take pictures of your heart, aorta, valves, and chambers. Your stress echocardiogram will help your doctor determine if your chest pain is related to cardiac-related angina, and if abnormalities are found, further testing and treatment may be warranted.
If you experience angina or any other type of chest pain, seek medical attention right away. When the source of chest pain is revealed and treated early on, an excellent outcome may be more likely.