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Echocardiogram

An echocardiogram (echo)

is an ultrasound of the heart. During an echo test, ultrasound (high-frequency sound waves) from a hand-held wand placed on your chest provides pictures of the heart's valves and chambers and helps the sonographer evaluate the pumping action of the heart. Echo is often combined with Doppler ultrasound and colour Doppler to evaluate blood flow across the heart's valves.

Why is an echocardiogram performed?

The test is used to: Assess the overall function of your heart Determine the presence of many types of heart disease, such as valve disease, myocardial disease, pericardial disease, infective endocarditis, cardiac masses and congenital heart disease Follow the progress of valve disease over time Evaluate the effectiveness of your medical or surgical treatments What happens during the test? You will be given a hospital gown to wear. You’ll be asked to remove your clothing from the waist up. A cardiac echo technician will place three electrodes (small, flat, sticky patches) on your chest. The electrodes are attached to an electrocardiograph monitor that charts your heart’s electrical activity during the test. The technician will ask you to lie on your left side on an exam table. The sonographer 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. This gel helps produce clearer pictures. 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 so the sonographer can take pictures of different areas of the heart. You may also be asked to hold your breath at times.

How long does the test take?

The appointment will take about 40 minutes. After the test, you may get dressed and go home or follow up with your doctor.