ECHO CARDIOGRAPHY

What is an echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram is an ultrasound scan of the heart. It is sometimes just called an 'ECHO'. The scan can give accurate pictures of the heart muscle, the heart chambers, and structures within the heart such as the valves.

Why is an echocardiogram done?

An ECHO can be carried out for many different reasons. It may be done to check how well your heart is working after a heart attack, or to look at how well the valves are moving inside the heart. An ECHO can also help to see any fluid that may have collected around the heart.

What happens during the test?

You will need to undress to the waist and lie on the couch. A probe is placed on your chest (it is a bit like a very thick blunt pen). Also, lubricating jelly is put on your chest so the probe makes good contact with the skin. The probe is connected by a wire to the ultrasound machine and monitor. Pulses of ultrasound are sent from the probe through the skin towards your heart. The ultrasound waves then echo ('bounce back') from the heart and various structures in the heart. These are then send to the echocardiogram machine and a picture is displayed on the monitor. The doctor then prepares a report.

The test is painless and takes about 15-30 minutes. You may have to turn on to your side during the test so that the operator can scan the heart from different angles. You do not need any special preparation before the test. You eat and drink normally before and after the test. Continue to take your usual medication.

Note: the information below is a general guide only. The arrangements, and the way tests are performed, may vary between different centers. Always follow the instructions given by your doctor or local hospital.

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