Echocardiogram

An Echocardiogram (also called an Echo) is a type of test that uses high-pitched sound waves that are sent through a device called a transducer. The device picks up echoes of the sound waves as they bounce off the different parts of your. These echoes are turned into moving pictures of your heart that can be seen on a video screen.

Is this Test Safe?

There are no known risks associated with this test.

This Test is Done to:

  • Look for the cause of abnormal heart sounds (murmurs or clicks), an enlarged heart, unexplained chest pains, shortness of breath, or irregular heartbeats.
  • Check the thickness and movement of the heart wall.
  • Look at the heart valves and check how well they work.
  • See how well an artificial heart valve is working.
  • Measure the size and shape of the heart's chambers.
  • Check the ability of your heart chambers to pump blood (cardiac performance).
  • Detect a disease that affects the heart muscle and the way it pumps, such as cardiomyopathy.
  • Look for blood clots and tumors inside the heart.

How to Prepare for the Echocardiogram?

On the day of the test, eat and drink as you normally would. Take all of your medications at the usual times, as prescribed by your doctor.

What To Expect?

The test usually takes about 40 minutes. After the test, you can get dressed and go about your daily activities.

During the test, you will be given a hospital gown to wear. You will be asked to remove your clothing from the waist up. A cardiac sonographer will place three electrodes (small, flat, sticky patches) on your chest. The electrodes are attached to an electrocardiograph monitor (ECG or EKG) that charts your heart's electrical activity.

The sonographer will ask you to lie on your left side on an exam table. He or she will place a wand (called a sound-wave transducer) on several areas of your chest. The wand will have a small amount of gel on the end, which will not harm your skin. The gel is used to help produce clearer pictures.

You may be asked to change positions several times during the exam in order for the sonographer to take pictures of different areas of your heart. You may also be asked to hold your breath at times during the exam.

You should feel no major discomfort during the test, although you may feel coolness from the gel on the transducer and a slight pressure of the transducer on your chest.