An echocardiogram uses sound waves to detect how well the heart muscle and valves are operating. It also may be used to detect the overall size and shape of the heart.
During the procedure, small electrodes are placed on the patient’s chest to monitor the heartbeat. A microphone-looking device, called a transducer, is then used to bounce sound waves off the heart. A computer transforms the sound waves into visual images that can be recorded and later viewed by the physician. An echocardiogram is a quick and painless procedure that can be performed in the hospital or in a physician’s office.
Echocardiograms are among the most common diagnostic tests performed on patients with heart concerns. The simple and painless procedure allows medical staff to keep a close eye on the status and progress of the heartbeat and the patient.
What to expect during your test or treatment
- Your echocardiogram should not cause you any discomfort and usually takes about 45 minutes to complete.
- You will be asked to remove your clothing from the waist up and change into a gown.
- A technologist will place three adhesive electrodes on your chest. These electrodes are connected by thin wires to a heart monitor that records your heart’s electrical activity during the test.
- You will be asked to lie on your side on an exam table while the technologist places a wand on several areas of your chest. The wand will have a small amount of cool gel on the end. This gel helps produce clearer pictures and will not harm your skin.
- The only discomfort you may feel is coolness from the gel or a slight pressure from the wand as it moves across your chest.
- You may hear swooshing sounds during the test as the sound waves are detected.
- You may be asked to change positions or hold your breath at times during the procedure.
What to expect after your test or treatment
- You may resume all normal activities immediately following your echocardiogram.
- Your physician will assess the test results and discuss them with you at a scheduled time.
- The results of your echocardiogram will be recorded in your electronic medical record.
If you have any questions about your care after you return home, call your physician’s office.
This test or treatment is offered at these facilities:
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Read more about echocardiogram in our Health Information Center.
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