An echocardiogram is an ultrasound test that can evaluate the structures of the heart, as well as the direction of blood flow within it. Echocardiography is used to create images and videos of the heart and is one of many tests that can be done to evaluate heart function. Sometimes an echocardiogram can be used in conjunction with a stress test (stress echocardiogram) to help get a better understanding of overall heart function. Vascular ultrasounds are used to evaluate arteries or veins throughout the body.
Your doctor may perform an echocardiogram to:
- Assess the overall function of the 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
What to ExpectJump Up
You will be asked to remove your clothing from the waist up and you will be given a gown to wear.
A technician will place three electrodes (small, flat, sticky patches) on your chest. The electrodes are attached to an electrocardiograph (ECG) monitor.
The technician will ask you to lie on your side on an exam table. He or she will place a probe (a sound-wave transducer) on several areas of your chest. The probe will have a small amount of gel on the end, which will not harm your skin. The gel helps produce clearer pictures. You may be asked to change positions in order for the technician to take pictures of different areas of your heart.
Once the test is over, you can get dressed and go about your day normally. A cardiologist will assess the test results and discuss them with you in order to provide further treatment.
What should I do to prepare for a stress echocardiogram?
Do not eat a big meal prior to your appointment time. If you use inhalers it is ok to use them (including nebulizers) the morning of testing as you normally would. Bring inhalers with you. Wear a comfortable two-piece outfit. Wear comfortable shoes if you are scheduled to walk on the treadmill. If you cannot walk on a treadmill, you can be scheduled for a medication stress echo.
How long does the test take?
Approximately 1 to 2 hours