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Echocardiography (Echo)

Non-Invasive Tests


Echocardiography is the most commonly used non-invasive method for the detection and estimation of different cardiac abnormalities.
An echocardiogram (often called "echo") is a graphic outline of the heart's movement. During this test, high-frequency sound waves, called ultrasound, provide pictures of the heart's valves and chambers. This allows the technologist / doctor to evaluate the pumping action of the heart. Echo is often combined with Doppler ultrasound which is used to measure blood flow in the heart and blood vessels and color Doppler to evaluate blood flow across the heart's valves. This allows for the accurate assessment of the valves and heart function.

Echocardiography uses high-frequency sound waves (also called ultrasound) that can provide a moving picture of your heart. The sound waves are sent through the body with a device called a transducer. The sound waves bounce off of the heart and return to the transducer as echoes. The echoes are converted into images on a television monitor to produce pictures of your heart.  

Your doctor may perform an echocardiogram to:

  •  Assess the overall function of your heart.

  •  Determine the presence of many types of heart disease.

  •  Follow the progress of heart valve disease over time.

  •  Evaluate the effectiveness of medical or surgical treatments.


Prior to the test, there is no need to restrict food or fluids. The procedure itself is pain-free and risk free.

During the test, you will be given a hospital gown to wear. You will be asked to remove your clothing from the waist up. A cardiac technologist will place three electrodes (small, flat, sticky patches) on your chest. The electrodes are attached to an electrocardiograph monitor (ECG) that charts your heart's electrical activity.

The technologist will ask you to lie on your left side on an exam table. He or she will place a wand (called a sound-wave transducer) on several areas of your chest. The wand will have a small amount of gel on the end, which will not harm your skin. The gel is used to help improve the transmission of sound waves. The test is usually performed in a darkened room, in order to brighten the details on the screen transmitting the image of the heart.

Sounds are part of the Doppler signal. You may or may not hear the sounds during the test. You may be asked to change positions several times during the exam in order for the technologist to take pictures of different areas of your heart. You may also be asked to hold your breath at times during the exam.You should feel no major discomfort during the test, although you may feel coolness from the gel on the transducer and a slight pressure of the transducer on your chest. The test will take about 15 to 45 minutes. After the test, you can get dressed and go about your daily activities. Your doctor will discuss the test results with you.  

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