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Echocardiogram

What is an Echocardiogram? An Echocardiogram, also called an Echo, is a test that uses ultrasound waves to take pictures of the heart muscle in motion. It is a safe and painless procedure which allows a physician to watch blood flow between the chambers, to see if a valve is narrowed or leaking, and to examine how the heart muscle contracts and relaxes.

What happens during the procedure?

  • You should check in with the receptionist at the Heart Center. 
  • An Echo technician will take you to a private room.
  • There is no preparation for this test. You may eat like normal before your appointment.
  • You will be asked to undress from the waist up and given a gown to wear. 
  • Three electrodes will be placed on your chest to monitor your heart rate and a tracing of this will show on the pictures the technician takes. 
  • You will lie on a table on your left side if possible for the first pictures. You may be asked to change positions at times. You will lie on your back for the last pictures.  
  • You may be asked to hold a deep breath or exhale.
  • A small transducer will be used to take the pictures with a colorless gel applied to the area where the pictures are gathered.
  • The technician will move the transducer over your chest to obtain different views of your heart. 
  • The procedure usually 30-45 minutes depending on the number of views needed. 
  • The exam may take longer for patients who have a broad chest, obesity,  smoking history or those who suffer from chronic lung disease. 

What happens after the procedure?

  • The gel is removed and you can dress. A physician trained to interpret echocardiograms will read the study and forward his dictation to the physician that ordered the study.
  • You may return to normal activity immediately.