Echocardiogram (Cardiac Ultrasound)
What is an Echocardiogram?
Echocardiogram, often referred to as a cardiac echo or simply an echo, is a sonogram of the heart. It produces moving, real-time images of your heart.
The procedure helps to check the structure of your heart and how well it is functioning. A cardiologist or a sonographer will do the procedure. They will adapt your care depending on your own personal needs.
An Echocardiogram usually takes 30 to 40 minutes. Your doctor or sonographer will place the sensor firmly against your skin and move it across your chest. The device works by sending out soundwaves and picking up the returning echoes. This gives a clear image of the heart which is displayed on a monitor.
The test is not usually painful but may feel uncomfortable when the sensor is moved over your skin. Sometimes your doctor or sonographer may need to press quite hard – be sure to tell them if it is painful.
Stress (exercise) Echocardiogram
This type of echocardiogram is done while your heart is working harder - this is what is meant by under stress.
You may be asked to walk on a treadmill or ride an exercise bike. You may also be asked to take medicines that make your heart beat faster and harder.
This is when a dye is injected into your vein during the Echocardiogram. The dye helps show your heart more clearly. This can help to diagnose if you have a hole in your heart.
Recovering from an Echocardiogram
If medicines are used to increase your heart rate, you may be asked to rest for up to an hour after the test. If you have an Echocardiogram as an outpatient procedure, you will be able to go home straight after the test and go about your day-to-day activities.