Safety of Stress Echocardiography Supervised by Registered Nurses: Results of a 2-Year Audit of 15,404 Patients

Garvan C. Kane, Mary J. Hepinstall, Glenda M. Kidd, Cathryn A. Kuehl, Amy T. Murphy, Janice M. Nelson, Le Rae Schneider, Vicky L. Stussy, Jennifer A. Warmsbecker, Fletcher A. Miller, Patricia A. Pellikka, Robert B. McCully

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Background: Stress echocardiography has traditionally been performed under the supervision of physicians. In the last decade, at some institutions, specially trained registered nurses have taken on the task of directly supervising and conducting these stress tests with appropriate physician involvement and assistance. Methods: The safety of 15,404 stress echocardiograms that were performed under the direct supervision of registered nurses during a recent 2-year period was evaluated. Results: The stress modality was treadmill exercise in 8592 (56%), dobutamine in 6755 (44%), and transesophageal atrial pacing in 57 (0.04%) patients. The mean age was 65 ± 13 years, and 54% were male. A total of 55 patients (0.36%) had complications related to stress echocardiography, including 26 patients (0.18%) who were subsequently transferred to hospital. Complications included atrial fibrillation (n = 28, 0.18%), other supraventricular tachycardias (n = 9, 0.06%), sustained ventricular tachycardia (n = 4, 0.03%), and ventricular fibrillation (n = 2, 0.01%). Eight patients (0.05%) were hospitalized for markedly positive tests or prolonged chest pain and 4 patients (0.03%) for symptomatic hypotension. No patient had cardiac rupture or died. Complications were more common with dobutamine stress echocardiography (DSE) (47/6755; 0.7%) compared with exercise echocardiography (8/8592; 0.09%) or transesophageal atrial pacing stress echocardiography (0/57) (P < .0001). Arrhythmias were more commonly associated with DSE (39/6755, 0.58%) than exercise echocardiography (4/8592, 0.05%). Potentially life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias occurred in 6 of 6755 patients who underwent DSE (0.09%) and in none of the patients who underwent exercise echocardiography. Patients who underwent DSE were, on average, older, and had more comorbidities compared with those who underwent exercise echocardiography. Conclusions: Stress echocardiography, when supervised directly by specially trained registered nurses, can be performed safely; complications are uncommon (1/280 stress tests) and these complication rates are comparable with previously reported studies evaluating the safety of stress echocardiography supervised by physicians.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-341
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of the American Society of Echocardiography
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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