Echocardiogram

What is an echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram is a test that uses sound waves (ultrasound) and a computer to look at your heart. The pictures created during the test show your heart as it is beating, like a movie instead of a snapshot.

When is it used?

This test is used to check the size, thickness, and movement of your heart, and how well it pumps. An echocardiogram is used to help diagnose heart problems such as:

  • How the heart is pumping
  • Blood clots in the heart
  • Muscle damage from a heart attack
  • Damage to heart valves from rheumatic fever
  • Heart problems you were born with, such as abnormal heart valves or holes in the heart
  • Tumors or growths inside the heart
  • Signs of infection inside the heart

This test may also be used to check how well treatment is working, such as medicine to dissolve blood clots or help the heart pump better.

How do I prepare for this test?

  • You may or may not need to take your regular medicines the day of the procedure. Tell your healthcare provider about all medicines and supplements that you take. Ask your provider if you need to avoid taking any medicine or supplements before the procedure.
  • On the day of your test, wear comfortable clothing and shoes.
  • Tell your provider if you have had kidney problems or an allergy to chemicals, such as contrast dye. Contrast dye is used for some scans.
  • Follow any other instructions your healthcare provider gives you.
  • Ask any questions you have before the procedure. You should understand what your healthcare provider is going to do. You have the right to make decisions about your healthcare and to give permission for any tests or procedures.

What happens during the test?

This test takes about 45 minutes. You usually lie on an exam table on your side. A gel is put on the skin of your chest to help transmit the ultrasound waves. A handheld device, called a transducer, sends high frequency sound waves through your chest to your heart. The sound waves bounce, or echo, off your heart. A computer converts the echoes into pictures of your heart.

The technologist moves the transducer to several places on your chest, and may ask you to breathe a certain way or hold your breath. In some cases the technologist may inject dye through an IV to show your heart more clearly.

What happens after the test?

After the test, you can go home and go back to your normal activities.

Ask your healthcare provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

What are the risks of this test?

There are no risks from this test if you do not have an IV and dye. You may have an allergic reaction if dye is used.

Ask your healthcare provider how these risks apply to you. Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2015-01-21
Last reviewed: 2015-01-20
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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