An echocardiogram (echocardiography or echo) is a graphic outline of the heart's movement. During an echo test, ultrasound (high-frequency sound waves) from a hand-held wand placed on your chest provides pictures of the heart's valves and chambers and helps the sonographer evaluate the pumping action of the heart.
Echocardiography has become routinely used in the diagnosis, management, and follow-up of patients with any suspected or known heart diseases. It is one of the most widely used diagnostic imaging modality in cardiology. It can provide a wealth of helpful information, including the size and shape of the heart (internal chamber size quantification), pumping capacity, and the location and extent of any tissue damage, assessment of valves and cardiac masses. Doctors also use echocardiography when they want to examine a person's general heart health, especially after a heart attack or stroke.
Echocardiography uses ultrasound waves to create a picture of the heart, called an echocardiogram (echo). It is a noninvasive medical procedure that produces no radiation and does not typically cause side effects.
During an echocardiogram, a doctor can see:
- the overall function of your heart
- the size and thickness of the chambers
- how the valves of the heart are functioning
- the direction of blood flow through the heart
- any blood clots in the heart
- areas of damaged or weak cardiac muscle tissue
- problems affecting the pericardium, which is the fluid filled sac around the heart
- The progress of valve disease over time
- the effectiveness of your medical or surgical treatments
Yes. Eat and drink as you normally would the day of the test.
Take all of your medications at the usual times, as prescribed by your doctor.
You may wear anything you like. You will be asked to change into a hospital gown before the test. Please do not bring valuables. You will be given a cabin with a key to store your belongings during the test.
- Before the test, the ultrasound technologist (also known as a cardiac sonographer) will explain the procedure in detail, including possible complications and side effects. You will have the opportunity to ask questions.
- You will be given a hospital gown to wear. You'll 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 (EKG) monitor that charts your heart's electrical activity during the test.
- The sonographer will ask you to lie on your left side on an exam table. The sonographer 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. This gel helps produce clearer pictures.
- Sounds are part of the Doppler signal. You may or may not hear the sounds during the test.
- You may be asked to change positions several times during the exam so the sonographer can take pictures of different areas of the heart. You may also be asked to hold your breath at times.
You should feel no major discomfort during the test. You may feel a coolness on your skin from the gel on the transducer, and a slight pressure of the transducer on your chest.
The appointment will take about 40 minutes. After the test, you may get dressed and go home or go to your other scheduled appointments.