An echocardiogram (ECHO) is a non-invasive ultrasound test for your heart. It uses ultrasound waves to determine the structure, function, and size of your heart. It also measures the direction and velocity of blood flow. We will use a special device called a transducer (or probe) to produce a real time image, from which the cardiologist can assess the function of your heart chambers, walls, and valves.
This test is performed by a cardiac sonographer and interpreted by a cardiologist.
Your physician can order this test if you have symptoms or conditions such as:
- Abnormal heart sounds, such as heart murmurs
- Chest pain and myocardial infarction (heart attack)
- Shortness of breath
- Family history of cardiac abnormalities
- Arrhythmias or irregular heart beat
- Artificial heart valves
To have an ECHO, your doctor needs to fill out a requisition form. Download ECHO requisition form.
There are no special instructions for this test. You may take your medications and eat normally.
Before Your ECHO
There is no preparation needed before your test. Wear comfortable clothing that is easy to remove. Please do not wear perfume on the day of your test.
Please arrive 30 minutes before your test to register. Please bring your health card and your requisition (if your physician has provided you with one).
During Your ECHO
Please allow at least 45 minutes to complete your ECHO.
You will only need to remove clothing from the waist up and we provide women with a gown. You can leave pants, shoes, and jewellery on.
You will be lying on your left side for most of the test and the room will be darkened. You will feel pressure around the heart area from the transducer the cardiac sonographer uses. We also test the blood flow through your heart and you will hear a computerized interpretation of your heart sounds.
After your ECHO
There are no side effects of an ECHO, and no radiation is used.
Our cardiologist will send the results of your test to your physician in writing. Your cardiac sonographer is not able to give you the results of your test.
Frequently Asked Questions About ECHO
No, your medication will not affect the test.
Yes, there are no restrictions to food or liquids for this exam.
We are looking at how your heart functions, the blood flow through your heart, the size of your heart, and how well the valves in your heart are working.
No, for most people this is not an uncomfortable exam. However, there are some who may be sensitive around the breast area and feel the pressure of the transducer that is taking the images. This is normal. Please let the cardiac sonographer know if you are feeling pain.
No, we only use sound waves. This test draws on the same technology we use for doing ultrasound tests on pregnant women.
No, this test is not able to view the small vessels around the heart.
There is an oxygen supply available in the ECHO room. Your technologist will make sure you are hooked up to the wall oxygen, to preserve your portable unit.
Transesophageal ECHO (TEE) is performed to assist in the diagnosis of cardiovascular disorders when non-invasive ECHO does not reveal enough information to confirm a diagnosis. TEE provides a better view of a part of the heart called the posterior aspect, including the atrium and aorta. It is done with a transducer attached to a gastroscope that is inserted into the esophagus.
The depth of the endoscope and movement of the transducer is controlled to obtain images of the heart structures. TEE is usually performed by the cardiologist and a nurse. The images obtained by TEE have better resolution than those obtained by routine ECHO because TEE uses higher frequency sound waves and brings the transducer closer to the cardiac structures.
The test cannot be done on pregnant women or children under 18 years of age.
In order to have a TEE:
- A previous ECHO must have been completed
- You need a friend or family member to drive you home after the procedure
- You (the patient) must be able to give consent to the procedure; if this is not possible, please ensure a family member is available to give consent
- You must not eat or drink anything (including no caffeine) from midnight prior to your appointment
The procedure will take approximately one hour and the recovery will take approximately two to four hours, depending on how you feel after the conscious sedation.