Preparing for the Test:

What is an Echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram is a noninvasive test that uses high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to examine the heart’s anatomy and function.

This test provides information about your heart’s size and function, the appearance of the valves and the thickness of the heart muscle.

The Test:

The entire test takes less than one hour. The echocardiogram will be performed by a sonographer, a specially trained ultasound technologist. You will be asked to disrobe from the waist up and will be provided with a gown. You will lie on an examining table and the sonographer will attach small adhesive patches with wires to record the timing of your heartbeat.

The sonographer will obtain ultrasound pictures of your heart using a small hand-held transducer and water-soluble gel. The lights will be dimmed to reduce glare so the sonographer can better see the picture monitor. Changes in body position are sometimes needed to get enhanced pictures. At times, the technologist may need to apply added pressure with the scanning probe to visualize certain areas requiring additional views.

While the Doppler ultasound test is performed, you will hear a swishing sound as the instrument receives and processes the signals. Doppler ultrasound is particularly helpful in the evaluation of heart murmurs. Color ultrasound imaging provides additional information about direction and distribution of blood flow. When this is being performed, you will notice multiple colors on the monitor screen.

The echocardiogram test includes Doppler and color evaluations of your heart.

Is it Safe?

Sound waves do not cause pain. The only discomfort you may experience would be related to the pressure of the transducer against your skin. There are no reports of complications related to the use of diagnostic ultrasound.

Cardiac Symptoms: Hypertension, chest pain, murmur, syncope, arrhythmia, suspected coronary artery disease, valvular heart disease, endocarditis, pulmonary disease, cardiac masses, evaluation of ventricular function, stroke, peripheral emboli involving major arteries, and family history of genetic cardiac disorder.

Further Reading

What is Echocardiography? American Heart Association

What is a Heart Attack? American Heart Association

Warning Signs of
Heart Attack?
American Heart Association

How Can I Live With Heart Failure? American Heart Association

What is Atrial Fibrillation? American Heart Association

What is an Arrhythmia? American Heart Association

What is Congestive Heart Failure? American Heart Association

What is Endocarditis? American Heart Association

Warning Signs of Stroke? American Heart Association

Heart Disease and Stroke? American Heart Association