What is an echocardiogram ( ECHO)
An echocardiogram or ECHO, is an ultrasound moving image of the heart. It is similar in
nature to other ultrasound tests such as pregnancy ultrasounds. An echo provides
accurate information about all the different parts of the heart and helps to check heart
Why am I having an ECHO?
Your doctor wants to know what your heart looks like and how it functions to help to find
reasons for some problems such as: breathing difficulties, chest discomfort, abnormal
heartbeat, heart murmur, or checking heart function after open heart surgery.
How is an ECHO performed ?/ What can I expect on the day?
The test takes 15-40 minutes depending on the amount of information we need and how
easy or difficult it is to get good images.
You will be required to remove all garments from your chest before the test commences.
Gowns are available for all patients on request.
The patient needs to lie down in several different positions to help to get heart pictures
from all possible angles. The main areas where the images are taken are on the
breastbone, under the left breast, at the top of the stomach under the ribs, and just above
the breastbone at the bottom of the neck.
The skin area where the probe will be placed is covered with a special water soluble gel
which improves picture quality. After the echo the gel is wiped off with tissues or a towel.
The test is generally not uncomfortable. The probe is placed gently on top of the skin, but
sometimes additional pressure may be required to improve picture quality. This is more
common when there is a lot of fat under the skin, but there are also other situations
requiring greater pressure. The technician will let you know if more pressure is required
for best image quality.
The sonographer will attempt to get the best possible images and frequently takes
multiple pictures using different settings on the machine and uses different echo probes to
get as much information as possible.
If you hear machinery like sounds during the echo test this is NOT an indication of any
disease. During some images (Doppler test) the equipment produces sound information.
This is NOT abnormal and this is NOT how your heart normally sounds.
What about the results?
The echo technician provides a preliminary report of the test on the same day. The test is
reported by a heart specialist, generally within 24 hours. Your doctor will get the full report
in the mail.