Dobutamine stress echocardiography (DSE)

Why is it performed?

Normally DSE is performed to determine whether or not an individual, most commonly presenting with chest pain, has significant coronary artery disease. It can also be used to decide how significant a previously identified narrowing of the coronary arteries is and to determine future management.

What do I need to do before the test?

Prior to the test you will usually be required to stop any drugs that slow the heart rhythm for at least 24 hours.  This includes beta-blockers and some calcium-channel blockers.  You will normally also be asked to be nil by mouth prior to the procedure.

What does the procedure involve?

This procedure involves the use of transthoracic echocardiography during the infusion of a chemical (dobutamine and possibly an additional drug, Adenosine) that speeds up the heart rate. A gel is applied on the chest wall and a probe is used to image the heart between the rib spaces whilst the heart is put under ‘stress’.  If a particular region of heart muscle fails to contract vigorously this suggests that there may be a limitation of blood supply to that area and so possible coronary artery disease.