What is an Echocardiogram ?
An echo is a completely safe and painless, non-invasive test that uses ultrasound waves to asses the heart. During the test, the doctor or technician hold a probe (transducer) against the chest. This transducer transmits information to the main machine (echocardiograph), which builds up an image of the heart. This image is displayed on a monitor.
The echo provides information about the following:
- Size of the heart chambers and muscle
- Heart function - the strength of the contraction (systole) and relaxation (diastole) of the heart
- Valve disorders (valvulopathies), which may lead to obstruction of blood flow (stenosis) or leakage (regurgitation
- Pericardial disease: the pericardium is a membrane that surrounds the heart. Sometimes it can become inflamed or produce fluid (pericardial effusion)
You will be asked to undress above the waist. You then lie down on a couch. Electrocardiogram (ECG) leads are attached to your chest and shoulders and gel is applied to the chest. The doctor or technician then applies the probe to the chest. Depending on what is being assessed, the procedure takes between 15 and 45 minutes.
The results of the echo will be explained to you in clinic and a full report will be sent to your general practitioner and/or referrer.