An echocardiogram is a diagnostic test used to measure the heart, its chambers, and blood flow. The test uses sonogram technology to convert sound waves into visible images. This allows doctors to evaluate the health of a patient’s heart and how well it can pump blood. Echocardiograms often reveal underlying conditions and abnormalities that could put a patient at risk of heart failure, stroke, or heart attack.
Did you know…
that there are several types of echocardiograms? The standard test, known as a transthoracic echocardiogram, is fast and non-invasive. Electrodes are placed on the outside of the body where they record sound waves in the chest. Stress echocardiograms are also minimally-invasive though they require images to be taken while the patient’s heart is under medically or exercise-induced stress. Transesophageal echocardiograms are more invasive, but provide the most detailed results. During this test, a transducer monitors sound waves from inside the body.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need an echocardiogram?
The only way to know for sure if you need an echocardiogram is by consulting with your doctor. However, it is common for doctors to recommend echocardiogram testing to patients with abnormal results from an EKG or those who have suffered a heart attack or stroke. An echocardiogram may also be right for you if you are experiencing chest pains, shortness of breath, or suffer from certain cardiovascular conditions like congenital heart disease, heart murmur, or pulmonary hypertension.
What should I expect during an echocardiogram?
Standard echocardiograms require no preparation. If you are undergoing a transesophageal or stress echocardiogram, however, you will be instructed to avoid eating in the hours leading up to the test. During a standard test or stress test, special electrodes will be attached to your body. If you are having a transesophageal echocardiogram, your throat will be numbed and you may be given a sedative before a transducer is placed into your esophagus. You will either be sitting, lying down, or on exercise equipment depending on the nature of the test. Your doctor or technician may give you special instructions during the test, which usually takes less than an hour.
How long will it take to get the results of my test?
The results of your echocardiogram will be available to your doctor the same day as your test. Your doctor may require additional testing or develop a plan for treatment depending on the results of the echocardiogram.