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Dobutamine Stress Echo

In order to diagnose certain heart conditions, some heart studies require that the heart be subjected to "stress" or exercise.  This allows your physician to evaluate the heart while it is working its hardest.

The dobutamine stress echo, (also called the dobutamine stress echocardiogram) was developed for people who are unable to exercise on a treadmill or stationary cycle as required using a more traditional stress echo.  In this test, you will be given dobutamine, a special medication that will stimulate your heart and make it think that it is actually exercising.

The dobutamine stress echo is a valuable diagnostic tool that allows your physician to assess a number of different things including:

  • The overall function of your heart's valves and chambers.
  • The clinical manifestations of many types of heart disease such as valvular problems, myocardial disease, pericardial disease, coronary artery disease and congenital heart disease.
  • Monitoring, evaluation and follow-up of medical treatments (drugs) or surgical procedures.


In preparation for the test, an ultrasound technician will place electrodes on your chest to monitor your electrocardiogram (ECG).  The electrodes are small, circular pads with a sticky substance to help them adhere to the skin.  Your blood pressure and ECG will be monitored throughout the test.

You will be asked to lie on your left side on an exam table.  The sonographer will place a wand (the ultrasound transducer that directs the sound waves) on different areas of your chest.  To facilitate movement on your skin, a small amount of gel is placed on the end of the wand.

An intravenous line (IV) will be inserted into a vein in your arm so the dobutamine medication can be delivered directly into your bloodstream.  Your physician will begin the infusion of dobutamine into the IV while the ultrasound technician continues to record echo images.  The medication will cause your heart to react as if you were exercising.

The dobutamine may give you a warm, flushing feeling and some patients experience a mild headache.  The IV line will be removed from your arm once all of the medication has entered your bloodstream.  The test normally takes 50-60 minutes.

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