If you can’t exercise on a treadmill or stationary bike for a stress test, your healthcare provider may suggest a dobutamine stress echocardiogram. During this test, a medication called dobutamine helps create a state of “stress” in your heart, similar to exercise. As your heart rate increases, your provider uses an echocardiogram to take images.

What is a dobutamine stress test?

A dobutamine (pronounced “doh-BYOO-tah-meen”) stress echocardiogram is a test to see how your heart works while under stress. An echocardiogram is a heart test that uses ultrasound vibrations to make an outline of your heart’s movement. The vibrations “echo” from your heart’s structures.

Unlike an exercise stress test, you don’t use a treadmill or stationary bike to increase your heart rate. During a dobutamine stress test, you receive a medication called dobutamine, which stimulates your heart just like exercise does. This test allows healthcare providers to see how your heart works under the stress of physical activity.

A dobutamine stress test can show:

When is a dobutamine stress echocardiogram performed?

If you can’t exercise on a treadmill or stationary cycle to get your heart rate up, healthcare providers use dobutamine. The test can:

Who performs a dobutamine stress echo test?

The doctor at CIC does and then reports the test him/herself.


How does a dobutamine stress echo test work?

Here’s what you can expect during your dobutamine stress echocardiogram:

1. Electrode placement: A nurse gently sticks electrodes (small, flat patches) on 10 areas of your chest. They attach the electrodes to an electrocardiogram (EKG) monitor that measures your heart’s electrical activity during the test.
2. Resting EKG: Before you get any dobutamine, the nurse performs a resting EKG. You lie on your left side on a table. The doctor places a wand (transducer) on your chest to view your heart’s movement. They take images of your heart throughout the test.
3. IV line: The nurse inserts an intravenous (IV) line into a vein in your arm to inject the dobutamine into your bloodstream. You may feel a sharp pinch as they insert the IV.
4. Dobutamine injection: A healthcare provider delivers the dobutamine medication into the IV. The technician continues to move the transducer to get echo images. The medication causes your heart to react as if you were exercising. Your heart rate goes up. You may feel your heart beating stronger than usual. You may feel warm and flushed and may even get a mild headache.
5. Monitoring symptoms: As the test continues, the lab staff periodically asks you how you feel. Tell them if you feel pain or discomfort in your chest, arm or jaw. Also, tell them if you feel dizziness, shortness of breath, lightheadedness or other symptoms. They watch for any changes on the EKG monitor that tell them they should stop the test.
6. End of test: After the test, your healthcare provider removes the IV from your arm. Your heart rate should return to normal within five to 10 minutes.