Echocardiogram (Echo)
 
 

An echocardiogram (echo) is an imaging test. It helps your doctor evaluate your heart. This test:

  • Is safe and painless.
  • Can be done in a hospital, test center, or doctor’s office.
  • Bounces harmless sound waves (ultrasound) off the heart. A transducer (device that looks like a microphone) is used.
  • Helps show the size of your heart. It also helps show the health of the heart’s chambers and valves.

Before Your Echo

  • Discuss any questions or concerns you have with your doctor.
  • Mention any over-the-counter or prescription medications, herbs, or supplements you’re taking.
  • Allow extra time for checking in.
  • Wear a two-piece outfit for the test. You may be asked to remove clothing and jewelry from the waist up. If so, you’ll be given a short hospital gown.

During Your Echo

  • Most echo tests take 30–40 minutes.
  • Small pads (electrodes) are placed on your chest to monitor your heartbeat.
  • A transducer coated with cool gel is moved firmly over your chest. This device creates the sound waves that make images of your heart.
  • At times, you may be asked to exhale and hold your breath for a few seconds. Air in your lungs can affect the images.
  • The transducer may also be used to do a Doppler study. This test measures the direction and speed of blood flowing through the heart. During the test, you may hear a “whooshing” sound. This is the sound of blood flowing through the heart.
  • The images of your heart are stored electronically. This is so your doctor can review them later.

After Your Echo

  • Return to normal activity unless your healthcare provider tells you otherwise.
  • Be sure to keep follow-up appointments.

Your Test Results

Your doctor will discuss your test results with you during a future office visit. The test results help the doctor plan your treatment and any other tests that are needed.