Echocardiogram

What is an echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram is a noninvasive procedure used to assess the heart’s function and structures.

Why might I need an echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram may be performed for further evaluation of signs and symptoms that may suggest atherosclerosis, cardiomyopathy, congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure, aneurysm, valvular heart disease, cardiac tumor, pericarditis, pericardial effusion, atrial or septal wall defects, or shunts. An echocardiogram may also be simply performed to assess the heart’s overall function and structure. There may be other reasons for your doctor to recommend an echocardiogram.

How should I prepare for an echocardiogram?

  • Generally, no prior preparation, such as fasting or sedation, is required.
  • Ask your doctor if you have any questions.

What should I bring to my appointment?

  • Insurance cards.
  • A current list of medications you are taking. Please include how much you take (dose in milligrams) and how often you take.

What should I expect during my test?

Generally an echocardiogram follows this process:

  • You will be asked to come back to the testing area; only the patient will be allowed into the testing area.
  • You will be asked to remove any jewelry or other objects that may interfere with the procedure. You may wear your glasses, dentures, or hearing aids if you use them.
  • You will be asked to remove clothing from the waist up and will be given a gown to wear.
  • Electrodes will be placed on your chest, which will be connected to measure your heart rate and rhythm.
  • You will lie on a table or bed, positioned on your left side. A pillow or wedge may be placed behind your back for support.
  • The room will be darkened so that the images on the echo monitor can be viewed by the sonographer.
  • The sonographer will place warmed gel on our chest and use a transducer probe. You will feel a slight pressure as the sonographer positions the transducer to obtain the desired images.
  • During the test, the sonographer will move the transducer probe around and apply varying amounts of pressure to obtain images of different locations and structures of your heart.  
  • You may be asked to hold your breath, take deep breaths, or even sniff through your nose during the procedure.
  • If the structures of the heart are difficult to see, the technologist may use an intravenous imaging agent that helps the heart chambers show up better, by improving the quality of the images.
  • After the procedure has been completed, the sonographer will wipe the gel from your chest and remove the ECG electrode pads. You may then get dressed.

How long does the test take?

The appointment will take 45 to 60 minutes.

How will I get my results?

When the test is complete, a cardiologist will review your results and enter them into your electronic medical record. Your primary physician will then be notified of the results. The testing staff will be unable to provide you with your results.