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Download a PDF version of the following Dobutamine Stress Echocardiography information

About Dobutamine Stress Echocardiography

This is a stress test for patients who have difficulty with walking on a treadmill. In this situation instead of walking on a treadmill, an intravenous drip is used and a medication called Dobutamine is infused at a very slow rate into the blood stream to temporarily increase the heart rate to mimic exercise. The infusion will be stopped when the target heart rate is achieved, and the pulse rate returns to normal usually within 10-15 minutes. The test may also be stopped in the event you develop an abnormal heart rhythm or symptoms such as chest pain or breathlessness (this occurs in less than 1% of tests).


Fast for 2 hours, though it is fine to still drink water.

What will happen during the test?

Overall the Dobutamine infusion phase will take somewhere between 5 and 20 minutes. Ultrasound images of your heart are taken before the infusion starts, then at various stages throughout the test as your heart rate increases.

During the test your blood pressure and ECG will be monitored regularly and noted by the Cardiologist and Cardiac Scientist. Should you develop any symptoms of chest pain, tightness / heaviness,  breathlessness, or wish to stop – you should advise the Cardiologist or Cardiac Scientist immediately.

The effects of Dobutamine typically wear off within 10-15 minutes. One of the common side effects of Dobutamine is a drop in blood pressure, therefore we advise that you arrange for someone to drive you home after the test. Please allow up to 2 hours for the test to be performed.

What are the risks of this procedure?

This is a very low risk procedure and the risks of this test are no different to those of a standard stress test.

The most common occur only occur in 3:1,000 people and include:

  • Chest pain which can be treated by stopping the test and administering medication.
  • Development of fluid in the lungs which will result in the cessation of the test and administration of medication.
  • An abnormal heart beat or “arrhythmia” which may be treated by stopping the test and may also be treated with or without medication.

There is a risk of heart attack in 1:2,500 people and a risk of death in 1:10,000 people.

If you have a history of previous/recent heart attack, a tears in the aorta, recent fluid or clots in the lungs, severe heart valve disease, irregular heart rhythm, palpitations, or recent increase in chest pain you should advise the staff before you commence the test. You will also be asked to provide a list of your medications so that these can be noted prior to the test. 


A report will be generated from your images by the Cardiologist and the Sonographer, this will then go to your referring Doctor electronically, usually the same day or overnight if done as the last test in the afternoon. You should contact your referring Doctor for your results and any follow up required. If there is any urgency with the results (for example you are seeing your GP the same day), please advise the cardiac scientist looking after you so that we can fast track the report.