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Heart Failure and the Echocardiogram

How Should I Prepare for the Echocardiogram?

On the day of an echo, eat and drink as you normally would. Take all of your medications at the usual times, as prescribed by your doctor.

What Happens During an Echocardiogram?

During the echo, you will be given a hospital gown to wear. You will be asked to remove your clothing from the waist up. A cardiac sonographer will place three electrodes (small, flat, sticky patches) on your chest. The electrodes are attached to an electrocardiography monitor (ECG or EKG) that charts your heart's electrical activity.

The sonographer will ask you to lie on your left side on an exam table. He or she will place a wand (called a sound-wave transducer) on several areas of your chest. The wand will have a small amount of gel on the end, which will not harm your skin.

Sounds are part of the Doppler signal. You may or may not hear the sounds during the test. You may be asked to change positions several times during the exam in order for the sonographer to take pictures of different areas of your heart.

You should feel no major discomfort during the test. You may feel coolness from the gel on the transducer and a slight pressure of the transducer on your chest.

The test will take about 40 minutes. After the test, you can get dressed and go about your daily activities.

What Should I Do to Prepare for a Stress Echocardiogram?

On the day of the echo, do not eat or drink anything except water for four hours before the test.

Do not take the following heart medications on the day of your test unless your doctor tells you otherwise: Beta-blockers (for example, Tenormin, Lopressor, Toprol, or Inderal); Isosorbide dinitrate (for example, Isordil, Sorbitrate); Isosorbide mononitrate (for example, Ismo, Imdur, Monoket); Nitroglycerin (for example, Deponit, Nitrostat). Your doctor may also ask you to stop taking other heart drugs on the day of your test. If you have any questions about your medications, ask your doctor. Do not discontinue any medication without first talking with your doctor.

What Should I Do if I Have Diabetes?

If you have diabetes:

  • If you take insulin to control your blood sugar, ask your doctor what amount of your medication you should take the day of the test. Often, your doctor will tell you to take only half of your usual morning dose and to eat a light meal four hours before the test.
  • If you take pills to control your blood sugar, do not take your medication until after the test is complete unless otherwise directed by your doctor.
  • Do not take your diabetes medication and skip a meal before the test.
  • If you own a glucose monitor, bring it with you to check your blood sugar levels before and after your test. If you think your blood sugar is low, tell the lab personnel immediately.
  • Plan to eat and take your blood sugar medication following your test.

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