An Echocardiogram (Echo) is a non-invasive test that uses sound waves to make pictures that look at the structure and function of your heart (two dimensional Echo or 2D Echo). A transducer or ultrasound probe is held against your chest wall with special ultrasound gel to help get good transmission of the sound waves. The transducer converts electrical energy into very high frequency sound waves (ultrasound), which are then sent into your body. When the sound waves reach your heart, they are reflected back and received back by the transducer. The machine creates a picture by determining the time it took for the sound wave pulse be reflected from a heart structure and how much of the pulse is reflected. The pictures that are created are like "slices of bread" with the heart being the bread loaf. The transducer is moved back and forth on the skin over the chest wall creating new pictures (ultrasound slices).
The sensation of the probe on the chest is generally not unpleasant. The Echocardiogram shows a much clearer and more detailed images of the structure of your heart, as well as more about its function than is possible with other tests. The test is safe and painless. The technique is very similar to the ultrasound test done during pregnancy to look at the unborn baby.
During the Echo study, colour flow information (Doppler) is superimposed on the two-dimensional (black and white) images. This colour flow Doppler displays the blood velocity and its direction within the heart. It looks at the heart valves for leaks and looks at other abnormalities of blood flow through the heart. In addition to colour flow Doppler, other Doppler flow will be measured. This looks for narrowings across valves and measures how well the heart fills with blood.
When the spectral Doppler is turned on, the echo machine makes noises which sound like a "washing machine". Don't be alarmed by the noise as it routinely sounds like this even with a normal heart. There is no preparation necessary prior to an echo. You will be required to lie on the bed on your left side. The technician will attach three ECG electrodes to your chest in order to monitor the activity of your heart.
This procedure will take approximately 1 hour. This may seem like a long time, but we are very thorough to permit the most accurate and complete information. A report will be sent to your doctor by the following day.
Are all Echocardiographic Studies the Same?
FAQs - Echocardiogram (Echo)