Test Details & Preparation
An echocardiogram (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. Echo is often combined with Doppler ultrasound and colour Doppler to evaluate blood flow across the heart's valves.
An echocardiogram (echo) test is used to assess the overall function of your heart determine the presence of many types of heart disease, such as valve disease, myocardial disease, pericardial disease, infective endocarditis, cardiac masses and congenital heart disease follow the progress of valve disease over time and evaluate the effectiveness of your medical or surgical treatments.
Take all of your medications at the usual times, as prescribed by your doctor and eat or drink as you normally would the day of the test.
Before the test, the healthcare provider will explain the procedure in detail, including possible complications and side effects. You will have the opportunity to ask questions. 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.
You should feel no major discomfort during the test. You may feel coolness on your skin from the gel on the transducer, and a slight pressure of the transducer on your chest.
An echocardiogram (echo) test will take about 40 minutes. After the test, you may get dressed and go home. After a cardiologist has reviewed your test, the results will be entered into your electronic medical record. Your physician will have access to the results and will discuss them with you.
Specialized echo tests:
A dobutamine stress echocardiogram is used to find out how your heart works when you are exercising. Two scans are done: one when you are resting and one when you are under stress. If you are unable to exercise, you may be given medication (dobutamine) to make your heart react as if you were exercising.
A transoesophageal echocardiogram (TOE) is a special type of echocardiogram where pictures of your heart are taken by inserting a probe into your throat (esophagus). These pictures are clearer to see than those produced using a probe on your chest (as in a standard echo) because the esophagus is close to your heart and there is no chest wall in the way.