Also referred to as a cardiac echo or sonogram of the heart, an echocardiogram is a simple diagnostic procedure that uses sound waves (echoes) to produce images of the heart that show its size, shape, pumping capacity, location and the extent of any tissue damage. This procedure is commonly used in the diagnosis, management, and follow-up of patients with suspected or known heart disease.
An echocardiogram might be recommended for a patient who has signs and symptoms of heart problems, such as shortness of breath or swelling in the legs. Both are indications that the heart cannot pump enough oxygen-rich blood to meet the body’s demands. An echocardiogram might also be ordered for a patient who has an abnormal sounding heartbeat, or to monitor the progression or improvement of a patient being treated for heart problems.
This is a simple office procedure that doesn’t require any patient preparation. During the test, you will be asked to lie on your back or side on the exam table. Your clothing must be removed from the waist up. Woman are provided a drape to cover up with during the test. A doctor of sonographer begins by applying a gel to your chest so the sound waves can reach your heart when the handheld transducer is moved around to transmit ultrasound waves. The echoes are converted by a computer to provide images of your heart. These pictures are recorded for review by your cardiologist. During the test, you may be asked to change positions or hold your breath for short periods of time to ensure the best possible pictures of your heart are captured. After the test, you can resume your normal daily activities.