An echocardiogram is a type of ultrasound imaging that uses high-frequency sound waves to make a detailed picture of your heart on a video monitor. Echocardiograms look at your heart’s blood vessels, chambers, valves and walls. They allow your provider to see the size and shape of your heart, how your heart moves and pumps blood, and whether your heart valves are working correctly.
Why Do You Need an Echocardiogram?
Your provider may recommend an echocardiogram to check your heart’s function or to see how your heart looks. An echocardiogram can be used to detect many heart problems, such as:
- Abnormal heart valves
- Damage after a heart attack
- Heart failure
- Heart murmurs
- Infection or tumors in the heart
- Pulmonary hypertension
Getting Ready for an Echocardiogram
No at-home preparation is necessary for an echocardiogram, and you can eat or drink as you normally do on the days before.
On the day of your echocardiogram, you may find it helpful to wear a shirt or blouse you can easily remove.
What to Expect During an Echocardiogram
During your test, the technician will put a gel on your chest to help the sound waves reach your heart through your skin. A device called a transducer will be placed and moved around on your chest. The transducer transmits ultrasound waves into your chest. The waves will bounce off your heart and “echo” back to the transducer, which will help create the pictures of your heart. The test usually takes less than an hour to complete.
After your echocardiogram, the technician will send the pictures to a cardiologist. The cardiologist will review the pictures and tell you about any next steps you may need to take.