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Echocardiogram

How It Is Done

An 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 lung disease.

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 heart.

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.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: December 09, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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