An echocardiogram (ECHO) uses sound waves (ultrasound) to create a picture of your heart. The recorded waves show the shape, texture and movement of your heart valves, as well as the size of your heart chambers and how well they are working. An ECHO may be done to assess a variety of heart conditions, such as heart murmurs, damage to heart muscle in those who have had a heart attack, and infections in the heart. It may also be recommended if you are experiencing abnormal heart sounds, shortness of breath, palpitations, angina (chest pain) or have a history of stroke. It is very useful in diagnosing heart valve problems.
What to expect
A gel is placed on your chest to help transmit the sound waves and a transducer (a unit that directs sound waves) is moved over your chest. This test involves no pain or discomfort. A typical test takes about 15 to 45 minutes.
How to prepare
For a regular echocardiogram, no special preparation is needed. If you have questions, it is best to check with the centre where you are having your test for specific information about how to prepare.
Last modified: April 2012