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Echocardiogram

What is an Echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram is a type of ultrasound scan that is used to provide a detailed view of your heart and surrounding blood vessels. A probe, called a transducer, sends out soundwaves and records the echo as they are reflected back by your heart tissue, displaying it as a moving image. These images are used to assess the size and shape of your heart, as well as checking it is working effectively, identifying any abnormalities or areas for concern.

Why should I have the test?

An echocardiogram is usually requested if your doctor suspects there may be something wrong with your heart, or you are displaying symptoms that could be the result of a heart problem.

An echocardiogram can be used to assess many things including:

  • The size and shape of your heart
  • Checking your heart chambers and valves are working correctly
  • The thickness and strength of your heart muscles
  • Any blood clots or tumours
  • Congenital heart defects. These are heart defects present at birth, such as a hole in the heart or narrowed valves.

What does the test involve?

An echocardiogram test is non-invasive, painless and requires no special preparation before it is performed.

You will be asked to lay on your back or left side with your clothing removed from the waist upwards (a gown will be provided). A cardiologist, or trained technician, will pass the transducer over your chest area to obtain different views of your heart.

Different amounts of pressure will be applied in order for the technician to capture images of various areas and structures of your heart, but this should not cause discomfort. You may be asked to hold your breath for a short period of time, take deep breaths, or change positions during the procedure. If you feel discomfort at any time be sure to tell the technician.

The images will be displayed on the screen as a black and white image and recorded for the cardiologist to assess. The test usually takes less than an hour.

Will it hurt?

No, an echocardiogram is a painless test

Are there any after effects?

There are no after effects from having an echocardiogram and you can resume your normal daily routine, unless advised otherwise by your doctor.

What can an Echo result show?

Echocardiograms can be used to diagnose new conditions, determine prognosis, monitor existing conditions, and guide treatments or further tests.

An echocardiogram can help diagnose conditions related to:

  • Heart defects, such as a hole in the heart or problems with heart chambers
  • Heart size, such as an enlarged heart, or thickened heart walls, which can be caused by high blood pressure and other diseases.
  • Heart strength, by measuring the rate and strength at which your heart pumps blood.
  • Weakened heart muscles, a possible indication the area is not receiving enough blood
  • Heart valve problems, such as narrowed valves, or valves that do not open or close properly.
  • Tumours and blood clots