Echocardiogram

What is an Echocardiogram?
An echocardiogram (echo) is a test that uses high frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to create pictures of your heart’s chambers, valves, walls and the blood vessels (aorta, arteries, veins) attached to your heart. The test is also called echocardiography or diagnostic cardiac ultrasound.The test cannot see the blood vessels supplying the heart with blood (coronary arteries).

Why do I need an echo test?
Your doctor may use an echo test to look at your heart’s structure and check how well your heart functions.
The test helps your doctor determine:

  • The size and shape of your heart, and the size, thickness and movement of your heart’s walls.
  • How your heart moves.
  • The heart’s pumping strength.
  • If the heart valves are working correctly.
  • If blood is leaking backwards through your heart valves (regurgitation).
  • If the heart valves are too narrow (stenosis).
  • If there is a tumor or infectious growth around your heart valves.
  • Problems with the outer lining of your heart (the pericardium).
  • Problems with the large blood vessels that enter and leave the heart.
  • Blood clots in the chambers of your heart.
  • Abnormal holes between the chambers of the heart.

Are there risks or side effects?

There are no side effects and you will not experience pain during the echo.  You will need to lie on your back and side during  the test, which could be uncomfortable for some people.

Is there any preparation for the echo?
There is no preparation for the echocardiogram.
What will I experience during the echo?
Echo tests are done by specially trained technicians. The test takes approximately 45 minutes.

  • You will be asked to lie on a table and a technician will place small EKG electrodes on your chest. The electrodes have wires that hook to an electrocardiograph machine. An electrocardiogram keeps track of your heartbeat during your test.
  • The room is dark so the technician can better see the video monitor.
  • The technician puts gel on your chest to help sound waves pass through your skin.
  • The technician may ask you to move or hold your breath briefly to get better pictures.
  • The probe (transducer) is passed across your chest. The probe produces sound waves that bounce off your heart and “echo” back to the probe.
  • The sound waves are changed into pictures and displayed on a video monitor. The pictures on the video monitor are recorded so your doctor can look at them later.

What can I expect after the echocardiogram?

  • You will receive the results after your doctor has had an opportunity to review the results of the test.

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