Stress echocardiography is an established method for the diagnosis and prognostic stratification of coronary artery disease. In the last few years, the tremendous technological and conceptual versatility of this technique has been increasingly applied in challenging diagnostic fields. Today, in the echocardiography laboratory we can detect not only ischaemia from coronary artery stenosis, but can also recognize abnormalities of the coronary microvessels, myocardium, heart valves, pulmonary circulation, alveolar-capillary barrier, and right ventricle. Therefore, we evaluate coronary arteries as well as coronary microvascular disease (associated with diabetes and hypertension), suspected or overt dilated cardiomyopathy, systolic and diastolic heart failure, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, athletes' hearts, valvular heart disease, congenital heart disease, incipient or overt pulmonary hypertension, and heart transplant patients for early detection of chronic or acute rejection as well as potential donors for better selection of suitable donor hearts. From a stress echo era with a one-fits-all approach (wall motion by 2D-echo in the patient with known or suspected coronary artery disease) now we have moved on to an omnivorous, next-generation laboratory employing a variety of technologies (from M-Mode to 2D and pulsed, continuous and colour Doppler, to lung ultrasound and real-time 3D echo, 2D speckle tracking and myocardial contrast echo) on patients covering the entire spectrum of severity (from elite athletes to patients with end-stage heart failure) and ages (from children with congenital heart disease to the elderly with low-flow, low-gradient aortic stenosis). For each patient, we can tailor a dedicated stress protocol with a specific method to address a particular diagnostic question. Provided that the acoustic window is acceptable and the necessary expertise available, stress echocardiography is useful and convenient in many situations, from valvular to congenital heart disease, and whenever there is a mismatch between symptoms during stress and findings at rest. Increasing societal concern regarding cost, environment and radiation risks of medical imaging will lead to a preferential application of ultrasound over competing techniques, due to its unsurpassed versatility, portability, absence of radiation, and low cost.
- Heart failure
- Valvular heart disease
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine