Doubutamine Stress ECHO (DSE)

An echocardiogram (also known as an ECHO) is a test that uses sound waves to build up a moving picture of the heart, similar to the ultrasound scan used in pregnancy. A dobutamine (stress) echo combines a normal echo with a drug (dobutamine) which has similar effects to exercise on the heart and circulation.

Performing an ECHO during dobutamine infusion may help doctors to find the cause of your symptoms. Dobutamine works by increasing the heart rate and the strength of its contractions without the need for exercise. A baseline echo is obtained, then a small dose of dobutamine is injected through a small plastic tube in an arm vein (with the dose increased in small increments every three minutes). ECHO scans will be repeated during the test. You will gradually notice your heart beating faster and more strongly as if you were exercising. Once you have reached your target heart rate (calculated based upon your age), the drug will be stopped. The doctor may also stop the drug early if you develop certain symptoms such as chest discomfort, shortness of breath, weakness, dizziness or significant changes in your blood pressure or ECG.

You may need to stop specific heart medicines one or two days before the test. This may be advised when you book your appointment. Do not eat a heavy meal in the two hours before your test. The test can take up to an hour, including preparation and recovery time. Once you feel recovered, you can usually go straight home. There are no known risks from the clinical use of ultrasound for scanning. The dobutamine (stress) test is typically low risk and widely used in patients with chest pain or patients with symptoms that limit their ability to exercise. A small number of patients may experience flushing of the face and / or minor palpitations, both of which go away very quickly once the test is stopped. You may also notice symptoms that you would otherwise have developed during normal exercise, such as chest pain, breathlessness, or dizzy spells, which usually go away once the test is stopped.

Please notify the doctor immediately if you are:

  • pregnant or think that you may be pregnant (there is a risk of injury to the foetus from dobutamine)
  • breastfeeding
  • allergic or sensitive to medications or latex