What to Expect During Your Echocardiogram

An echocardiogram is a minimally invasive, painless procedure that can offer a wealth of knowledge about your heart.

If you’re concerned that you may have heart disease or a heart abnormality, your doctor may recommend that you undergo an echocardiogram. This procedure, which is sometimes called an “echo test” or a diagnostic cardiac ultrasound, uses high-frequency sound waves to create images and ultimately assess the health and functionality of the heart.

Echocardiograms can be used to detect many heart problems, diagnose specific conditions, identify abnormalities, and help doctors evaluate the effectiveness of procedures that have been performed. If your cardiologist has ordered an echocardiogram, there’s no reason to be nervous — the procedure is safe, typically painless, and routine.

Why do you need an echocardiogram?

Your doctor or cardiologist will likely use an echo test to examine your heart’s structure and determine whether or not it’s functioning as it should. An echocardiogram will offer insight into your heart’s size and shape, its movement and pumping strength, and the thickness of the walls and valves.

This knowledge can help your doctor discover problems with the heart’s outer lining, abnormalities in the large blood vessels that lead blood to and from the heart, blood clots, or problematic holes between the chambers of the heart. Accessing this rich information with an echocardiogram causes no physical pain and poses very little risk. The procedure also requires no advance preparation from the patient.

What happens during an echocardiogram?

Prior to your echo test, you’ll be asked to put on a hospital gown and lie down on an exam table. Depending on the type of echo test that’s being performed, the procedure can differ from here.

The most common type of echocardiogram is transthoracic (TTE). TTE is a painless, non-invasive test that involves a device called a “transducer.” A transducer emits a high-frequency sound, and the sound waves bounce back to the device where they are interpreted by a computer. During TTE, the transducer will be placed on your chest to take images of your heart.

Another type of echocardiogram is transesophageal (TEE). TEE may be used if more definitive images are needed. During TEE, the patient’s throat is numbed and a small transducer is guided down the esophagus via a thin, flexible tube. Because an anesthetic is applied, this procedure is also painless.

After your echocardiogram, your doctor will interpret the results, explaining what the images show and walking you through the next steps. If the results aren’t conclusive, you may need to return for another echocardiogram at a later date.

If you’re concerned about your heart health and believe that you may need an echocardiogram, reach out to Premier Heart & Vein Care. At our practice in San Luis Obispo, CA, we specialize in treating patients with cardiovascular disease. Our dedicated doctors and care team will ensure you receive the highest quality treatment.

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