If your cardiologist suspects a problem with the valves or chambers of your heart, an echocardiogram may be used to evaluate your heart’s pumping efficiency. An echocardiogram is a simple, non-invasive ultrasound of the heart that enables doctors to see moving images of the valves, blood flow through the valves, and the size and structure of the heart muscle.

What to Expect During an Echocardiogram

After you undress from the waist up, put on a gown, and lie on an exam table, a technician will attach electrodes to your chest for an electrocardiogram (ECG), which records the heart’s electrical activity and helps with the interpretation of the echocardiogram.

For the echocardiogram itself, a technician will spread gel on your chest then press a transducer against your skin, which emits an ultrasound beam through your chest. A computer uses the information from the transducer to create images that are displayed on a video monitor, with colors indicating the varying speed of your blood as it flows through your heart. You may be asked to breathe in a certain way or to roll over onto one side. You may hear a pulsing “whoosh” sound, which is the machine’s approximation of blood flowing past the structures in your heart.

Results will be available within 24-48 hours.

How to Prepare for an Echocardiogram

There is no preparation for a conventional echocardiogram. The entire test usually takes less than one hour.

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