What is Echocardiography?
Echocardiography (ek-o-car-dee-AH-gruh-fee), also called an ECHO test, is an ultrasound procedure that takes “moving pictures” of the heart. It is a painless test that uses high-frequency sound waves to look at the structural and valvular health of your heart. It helps your doctor determine if you have problems with your heart or valve function.
The Test May Be Needed if:
- You have a heart murmur.
- You have high blood pressure.
- You have trouble breathing while exerting yourself.
- You have had a heart attack.
- You have had rheumatic ( roo-MAT-ik ) fever (an inflammatory disease caused by complications from the group A streptococcus bacteria that can damage heart valves).
How Is It Done?
- You will remove clothes from the waist up. Women will be given a gown to wear. Please refrain from applying any lotions, powders or gels to this area on the day of the test.
- A blood pressure will be taken first. Three electrodes will then be placed on the chest to help the machine collect information about the electrical health of your heart.
- You will lie on your side for a majority of the test.
- A technologist will put a special water-based jelly on a probe and move it over your chest area. High-frequency sound waves create video images of your heart walls and heart valves in real time. The images can be viewed on a video monitor and information about the heart can be evaluated.
- The images collected will be digitally recorded for the doctor to see.
- The procedure is painless and has no side effects. There is no harmful radiation or X-ray used.
- Your doctor will talk to you about the results of the test at your follow-up visit.
What Does The Test Show?
- The size, shape, and strength of your heart.
- If a wall or section of heart muscle is weak or not working properly.
- If you have any problems with your heart valves.
- How well the blood is flowing through the heart valves.
- If you have a blood clot in your heart.
How long the test will take to complete?
- From start to finish, the test itself can take about 45 minutes to complete.
Special Types of Echocardiography
Besides performing a traditional ECHO, your doctor may also want to perform an additional special type of Echocardiogram, such as a Bubble Echocardiogram, or a contrast Echocardiogram. These special tests can be performed alone or in combination with a traditional ECHO.
These tests provide additional information about your heart. The preparation for these procedures is slightly different from a regular Echocardiogram in that you will need to have an intravenous line (IV) placed in your arm for the test.
This is a special type of Echocardiogram in which saline (a salt water solution) is injected through an IV in the vein to determine if bubbles filter from the right side of the heart to the left. This test is performed to detect congenital abnormalities of the heart, like a hole in the heart wall.
This is a type of Echocardiogram which involves a contrast agent, known as DEFINITY®, to be injected into the arm (via IV) to help improve echo resolution. It can significantly improve the quality of the heart images when traditional echo is suboptimal for interpretation.
DEFINITY® is a safe contrast agent and contains no dye or radioactive properties.