How It Is Done
echocardiogram may be done in a hospital, clinic, or
doctor's office. It can also be done at your bedside in the hospital.
You will need to remove any jewelry and clothes above your waist (you may
be allowed to keep on your underwear if it does not interfere with the test).
You may be given a cloth or paper covering to use during the test.
A transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE), Doppler echocardiogram, and stress
echocardiogram are performed by a specially trained ultrasound technician. A
transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) is performed by a
cardiologist with the help of assistants.
You may receive
an IV so you can get medicine during the test. The IV can be used to give you a
contrast material, which helps
your doctor check your heart function. A contrast material may be used if it is difficult to
get good views of your heart. A good view might be hard to get because of certain conditions such as obesity or chronic
Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE) and Doppler echocardiogram
You will lie on your back or on your left side on
a bed or table. Small metal discs (electrodes) will be taped to your arms and
legs to record your heart rate during the test. To learn more, see Electrocardiogram.
A small amount of
gel will be rubbed on the left side of your chest to help pick up the sound
waves. A small instrument (transducer) that looks like a microphone is pressed
firmly against your chest and moved slowly back and forth. This instrument
sends sound waves into the chest and picks up the echoes as they reflect off
different parts of the heart. The echoes are sent to a video monitor that
records pictures of your heart for later viewing and evaluation. The room is
usually darkened to help the technician see the pictures on the monitor.
At times you will be asked to hold very still, breathe in and out very
slowly, hold your breath, or lie on your left side. The transducer is usually
moved to different areas on your chest that provide specific views of your
The test usually takes from 30 to 60 minutes. When the test
is over, the gel is wiped off and the electrodes are removed.
Exercise stress echocardiogram
An echo without
activity or stress will be done before you start exercising. This is called the
baseline, and after it is established you will exercise for a specific amount
of time. You will either walk on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bicycle
while being monitored by an EKG machine. To learn more, see Exercise Electrocardiogram.
You will then
lie on a bed or table, and another echocardiogram will be done. At times you
will be asked to hold very still, breathe in and out very slowly, hold your
breath, or lie on your left side. The transducer is usually moved to different
areas on your chest that provide specific views of your heart.