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Stress echocardiogram

A stress echocardiogram is a painless test that helps your doctor understand how your heart functions under stress, for example when you exercise

Man on treadmill undertaking a stress echocardiogram test

An echocardiogram that offers clear and accurate images of the inside of your heart to monitor its structure and how it functions. A stress echocardiogram is a type of echocardiogram that's performed during or just after a period of exercise on a treadmill or exercise bike. Sometimes it is performed after you have an injection of medication that makes your heart work harder.

What is an echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram, also referred to as an "echo", is a painless scan that looks inside your heart and its nearby surrounding blood vessels. The test can detect issues with your heart and help monitor your heart health more generally. 

It is a type of ultrasound scan, which means it is performed using a small probe that emits high-frequency soundwaves that create echoes, which bounce off parts of your body. These echoes are detected by the probe and turned into a moving image displayed on a monitor as the scan is being performed. 

A stress echocardiogram combines a regular echocardiogram with a stress test. 

Who can perform an echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram can be performed by a consultant cardiologist, a cardiac physiologist, a trained sonographer, or even your GP. The results of an echocardiogram are typically analysed by a cardiac physiologist and confirmed by your consultant cardiologist. 

Your echocardiogram with Circle Health Group

At Circle Health Group, we have a large network of multidisciplinary healthcare professionals who can perform stress echocardiograms (and all other kinds of echocardiograms), including consultants and cardiac physiologists. To find out more, you can call a member of our advisory team on on 0141 300 5009, or book an initial consultation with a consultant online.

The cost of a stress echocardiogram starts from £450*

The cost of a stress echocardiogram with contrast starts from £550*

This price just covers the test itself. If you have a course of treatment with Circle Health Group, we usually offer a fixed-price package. However, when you need tests or scans as part of your diagnosis, these are charged separately. We will let you know at the time exactly how much the test will cost and when you’ll need to pay.

If you have private health insurance, these tests will usually be covered by your policy. We work with all major providers of private medical insurance.

If you are having the test as part of an ongoing treatment plan, these tests may be included in your fixed-price package.

*This is just a guide price for patients who are paying for their own treatment. The actual cost will be confirmed to you before you have the test.

There are three main types of echocardiograms, which are: 

Each echocardiogram captures images of the inside of your heart using a different technique. 

A stress echocardiogram is performed to help your physiologist and consultant understand how your heart functions when it is working harder. During the test, your heart will be increased to a level that someone your age should reach without experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness or fainting
  • An abnormal heart rhythm 
  • Swelling in your legs
  • Extreme chest tightness
  • Extreme chest pain
  • Upper back pain

If you do experience any of the above symptoms when you are resting, exercising, or both, a stress echocardiogram could determine why. Your physiologist or consultant might offer you a stress echocardiogram if they detect abnormalities in a regular echocardiogram. This is to help understand the cause of your symptoms and whether they are related to your stress levels.

A stress echocardiogram for coronary artery disease

Your physiologist or doctor will also recommend a stress echocardiogram if you have symptoms of coronary heart disease, which happens when the blood supply to your heart becomes blocked by a build-up of fatty substances in your coronary arteries. A stress echocardiogram can detect a decrease in blood to your heart caused by this blockage in your coronary arteries.

Coronary heart disease can cause pain throughout your body, shortness of breath, and fainting spells. It can be effectively managed and treated with medication, lifestyle changes, and sometimes surgery. 

No preparation as such is needed for this test. You will be shown how to use the exercise equipment safely and properly before this test. You will need to come to your appointment wearing appropriate fitness clothing, in particular running shoes. 

If you are having medication instead of exercising for your stress test, this will be administered with an injection. There is no preparation needed for this, but your consultant will ensure you feel ready to have the injection. 

Before the test begins, your consultant or physiologist will attach several sticky sensors (known as electrodes) to your chest. You will be required to remove the upper half of your clothing for this. These electrodes are connected to a machine that provides moving ultrasound images of your heart rhythm in real time while the test is being performed. 

You will be asked to exercise on a treadmill or exercise bike while the test is being performed. The intensity of this exercise routine will vary as you go along so that we can monitor your heart under different levels of exertion.

If you cannot exercise for a stress test due to mobility issues, you might be offered a medication that makes your heart work harder for a short period of time instead. This is called dobutamine. Speak with your consultant about whether this is the right option for you. 

There is no recovery from this test as such, but you might have some redness and discomfort on your chest from the electrodes. This will resolve naturally.

Depending on the outcome of the test, you might have to make some diet and lifestyle changes when you return home. Your physiologist and consultant will ensure you are aware of these factors before you leave the hospital.

In most cases, you will receive your results on the day of your test.

Your physiologist will need around an hour to analyse your results after your test. Your consultant will confirm their analysis and your diagnosis. You will meet with your consultant after the test to discuss your results and potential treatment plan.

In some cases, you might need to wait a day or two before getting your results, but this depends on your individual circumstances. 

There are no major risks associated with having an echocardiogram, because it is a test and not an invasive procedure. You might experience some dizziness, nausea, and chest pain during or after the test, but this will subside quickly and not cause any long-lasting effects.

Your doctor will ensure you know everything you need to know about the potential risks of having an echocardiogram before you have it, so you can feel prepared for the test and reassured that complications are rare. 

When you choose to go private with Circle Health Group, you can expect:   

  • Flexible appointment times and locations to fit your routine  
  • The freedom to choose which hospital and consultant suit your needs  
  • Personalised, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to your individual needs  
  • Comfortable and safe private facilities maintained by expert multidisciplinary teams  
  • Support by the same compassionate clinical team from beginning to end  
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included  
  • Flexible payment options to spread the cost of your care

If you would like to learn more about this procedure, book your appointment online today or call a member of our team directly on 0141 300 5009.

Content reviewed by Circle in-house team in July 2022. Next review due July 2025.

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