Also known as: Echo, Echocardiography, Diagnostic Cardiac Ultrasound
Duration: Up to an hour
The echocardiogram is a painless diagnostic test that takes pictures of the heart by using an ultrasound probe/transducer. The probe sends out sound waves to the heart and an image is created when it picks up the sound waves that bounce back from the heart.
Types of Echo:
- Transthoracic Echo – is the standard type of echo that visualizes the heart. It is combined with doppler imaging to see how well the blood is flowing in your heart. An ultrasound technician applies a gel over your chest and a probe is glided in multiple directions to visualize different angles of your heart.
- Transesophageal Echo – is less commonly used and opted when there are problems viewing the heart on the standard echo. It is an invasive procedure in which a spray or a gel will be given to numb your throat along with some medicines to help you relax. A probe will be passed down your throat and into the esophagus (the food pipe that connects the mouth and the stomach) in a flexible tube. Paired with the doppler imaging, the probe is moved in different directions in the esophagus capturing various angles of your heart.
- To check the heart’s chambers, the major blood vessels, pericardium (the outer coverings of the heart), the thickness of the heart muscle, the function of the valves, and how well the heart is pumping.
- To diagnose various heart diseases
- To follow up on the progress of heart diseases
Preparing for the test:
After the test:
- The results from the imaging will be discussed with you.
- You can continue your daily activities.
- Some patients might be kept longer for observation (if needed).
- Ask your cardiologist if you have any questions or concerns.
InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. What is an echocardiogram? 2016 Oct 6 [Updated 2019 Jan 31]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK395556/
Ashley EA, Niebauer J. Cardiology Explained. London: Remedica; 2004. Chapter 4, Understanding the echocardiogram. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK2215/
Mohamed AA, Arifi AA, Omran A. The basics of echocardiography. J Saudi Heart Assoc. 2010;22(2):71-76. doi:10.1016/j.jsha.2010.02.011
Modin D, Andersen DM, Biering-Sørensen T. Echo and heart failure: when do people need an echo, and when do they need natriuretic peptides?. Echo Res Pract. 2018;5(2):R65-R79. doi:10.1530/ERP-18-0004