An echocardiogram is a non-invasive ultrasound test for the heart. We determine the structure, function and size of the heart by using ultrasound waves. We also measure the direction and velocity of blood flow. Placing a transducer on the chest produces a real time image. The resulting image allows the cardiologist to assess the function of the heart chambers, walls and valves.
Physicians order this test for patients when they 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
What You Should Know
There are no special instructions for this test. You may take your medications and eat as you normally.
This test uses the same technology as any ultrasound test.
- Before Your Visit
There is no preparation needed before your test. It is best to 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 at the central registration desk in Building A. Please bring your health card and your requisition (if your physician has provided you with one).
- During Your Visit
Please allow at least 45 minutes to complete your echocardiogram.
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 sonographer uses. We also test the blood flow through your heart and you will hear a computerized interpretation of your heart sounds.
- After your visit
There are no side effects of an echocardiogram, and no radiation is used.
Our cardiologist/radiologist will send the results of your test to your physician in writing. Your sonographer is not able to give you the results of your test.
- Care providers
This test is performed by a cardiac sonographer and interpreted by a cardiologist and/or radiologist.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Do I stop taking my medications before an echocardiogram?
No, your medication will not affect the test.
- Can I eat or drink before the echocardiogram?
Yes, there are no restrictions to food or liquids for this exam.
- What can you tell from this test?
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.
- Does this test hurt?
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 sonographer know if you are feeling pain.
- Am I exposed to radiation?
No, we only use sound waves. This test draws on the same technology we use for doing ultrasound tests on pregnant women.
- Can you see if the arteries around my heart are clogged?
No, this test is not able to view the small vessels around the heart.
- What if I am using oxygen?
There is oxygen available in the echo room. Your technologist will make sure you are hooked up to the wall oxygen, to preserve your portable unit.