WHAT IS ECHOCARDIOGRAPHY?
Echocardiography, also called an echo test or heart ultrasound, is a test that takes moving pictures of the heart. An ultrasound machine and special probe are used. The probe creates high frequency sound waves. The sound waves travel through your body, bounce off the heart, and return to the ultrasound machine to produce a picture. The pictures show the size and shape of your heart. The sound waves also carry important information about blood flow. This kind of ultrasound, called Doppler, shows how well blood flows through the chambers and valves of the heart. This tells how well your heart's chambers and valves are working.
WHY DO I NEED AN ECHO TEST?
Your provider may order an echo test if you have signs or symptoms of a heart problem. The test may be needed if you have a heart murmur, a previous heart attack, unexplained chest pain or shortness of breath, or have a congenital heart defect. Your provider may recommend an echo to periodically monitor a heart condition or see how the heart is responding to medical treatment.
HOW IS AN ECHO TEST PERFORMED?
Echo tests are performed by specially trained sonographers. The test is typically performed while you are lying on a bed on your back or left side. The sonographer will place a small amount of gel on the ultrasound probe and place it on different areas of your chest. The test is typically painless and has no side effects. In some instances an IV needs to be placed in the arm so that a medication can be administered to improve the picture quality. The echo test usually takes 45 minutes to 1 hour to complete.