Echocardiography is a diagnostic medical imaging test that can help your cardiologist diagnose certain cardiovascular diseases. It uses soundwaves to capture images of your heart and surrounding structures in real-time. Unlike regular x-rays, echocardiography does not involve the use of harmful ionizing radiation. While there is no special preparation needed prior to your echocardiogram, your cardiologist may tell you to avoid the following medications a day or so prior to your test because they may skew your results.
A type of beta-blocker, propranolol is often prescribed to treat high blood pressure, anxiety, migraine headaches, and tachycardia, which refers to an abnormally fast heart rate. Propranolol can slow down your metabolic rate and subsequently decrease your heart rate. This can mask an underlying cardiac arrhythmia because when your heart is chemically slowed as a result of propranolol or other beta-blocking drugs, it may beat in a more orderly rhythm, subsequently skewing the results of your echocardiogram.
If you are unable to stop taking your propranolol prior to your echocardiogram, be sure to let your cardiologist know so that they can take this into consideration when interpreting your heart imaging test results.
OTC Pain Medications
Certain over-the-counter, or OTC drugs, can also lead to false-positive echocardiogram results. Some OTC pain relievers contain caffeine, which not only can cause a fast heart rate but can also raise your risk for abnormal heart rhythms. When reaching for an OTC pain reliever, check the ingredients, and if it contains caffeine, consider an alternative medication.
In addition to avoiding caffeine-containing pain relievers, your cardiologist may recommend that you forego your morning cup of coffee on the day of your echocardiogram because coffee contains caffeine. Not only can caffeine speed up your heart rate, but it may also increase the force of your cardiac contractions, which may be falsely interpreted as a problem with your arterial pressure, problems with your heart chambers, pumping abnormalities, and valve disorders.
If you are anticipating an upcoming echocardiogram, consider the effects the above medications may have on your results. Taking medications that can skew your results may result in additional unnecessary and even invasive cardiac testing such as cardiac catheterization. During this test, the interventional cardiologist inserts a catheter into the femoral artery and advances it up towards your heart to determine if you have any arterial blockages. Having to undergo additional cardiac testing as a result of a false-positive echocardiogram can cause anxiety and even financial hardship for those whose medical insurance does not cover the cost of diagnostic imaging tests.
Contact a company like Alpert Zales & Castro Pediatric Cardiology to learn more about echocardiography.