Key Points about an Echocardiogram
- Echocardiograms are used to monitor how well your heart is working.
- Echocardiograms also performed to determine if there are signs of heart disease.
- Tests are administered by an ECHO technician in an outpatient office.
- There's no substantial recovery time from an ECHO
OverviewAn echocardiogram – or ECHO – is a diagnostic test that uses sound waves to create detailed images of your heart and blood vessels. Your doctor uses these images to determine how well your heart is working and if you have any signs of heart disease.
Candidates for an echocardiogram
You may need to undergo an echo if your cardiologist needs to:
- Check for the cause of heart-related symptoms you are experiencing, including shortness of breath or chest pain
- Check your heart values or chambers for problems
Preparing for an ECHO
You shouldn’t need to do anything specific to prepare for an echo; you can eat, drink and take your medication as prescribed before the test. You will undergo the echo in your cardiologist’s office or the hospital.
Before undergoing the echo, you will undress from the waist up and lie on an examination table. (Women will leave their bra on.) The echo technician will attach sticky patches – called electrodes – to your body. These electrodes help your body conduct your heart’s electrical currents during the test.
Expectations during an ECHO
The echo technician applies a gel to the transducer (hand-held wand from the echo machine) and then moves the transducer across your chest above your heart. The echo machine records images of your heart and blood vessels throughout your body. During this process, you may hear whooshing sounds. The echo technician may ask you to breathe in certain ways, hold your breath for a short period of time, or roll to your side during the test.
Recovery after an ECHO
After the echo is over, the technician will remove the electrodes from your body. You will receive a paper towel to wipe the gel off your chest, and you will put your shirt back on. Depending on the test results, your cardiologist will formulate the next steps of your treatment plan. You may need to come to the office for a follow-up visit to discuss the echo results.
Common conditions requiring an echocardiogram
You may need to undergo an echo if your doctor suspects that you may have:
- Blood clots in your heart chambers
- Holes in your heart chambers
- Problems with the large blood vessels of your heart
- Problems with your pericardium (outer lining of the heart)
When to seek care
If you think you may need to undergo this test, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing a cardiologist for more specialized treatment.