Tests and Procedures

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What is an echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram is a test in which ultrasound is used to examine the heart. The test allows accurate measurement of the heart chambers and is capable of displaying a cross-sectional “slice” of the beating heart including the chambers, valves, and the major blood vessels that exit from the left and right ventricle.

How do I prepare for the test?

No special preparation is necessary for the test.

How is the echocardiogram performed?

We will ask you to undress from the waist up and give you a gown or sheet to keep you comfortable. You will then lie on an examination table or a hospital bed.

Sticky patches or electrodes are attached to the chest and shoulders and connected to wires. A colorless gel is then applied to the chest and the echo transducer, a microphone-shaped device, is placed on top of it. The technologist makes recordings from different parts of the chest to obtain several views of the heart. You may be asked to move from your back on to your side. Instructions may also be given for you to breathe slowly or hold your breath. This helps obtain higher quality pictures. The images are constantly viewed on the monitor. The echocardiogram is also recorded on paper and on videotape.

Is the test safe?

The test is extremely safe. There are no known risks from the clinical use of ultrasound during this type of testing.

How long does the test take?

A routine test takes 15-20 minutes. The additional use of Doppler may add an additional 10-20 minutes. However, it may take up to an hour for patients with conditions such as lung disease, obesity, restlessness, or significant shortness of breath.

When will I receive the test results?

If a doctor is present during the test or reviews it while you are still in the office, you may get the results before you leave. If the doctor is not present during the test, you may have to wait a couple of days before the physician reviews the results.