Echocardiogram Imaging Services
(Echocardiography, Echo, Cardiac Ultrasound, Cardiac Ultrasonography,
Cardiac Doppler, Transthoracic Echocardiogram, TTE)
What is an echocardiogram?
An echocardiogram is a noninvasive procedure used to assess the heart's
function and structures. During the procedure, a transducer (like a
microphone) sends out ultrasonic sound waves at a frequency too high to
be heard. When the transducer is placed on the chest at certain
locations and angles, the ultrasonic sound waves move through the skin
and other body tissues to the heart tissues, where the waves echo off of
the heart structures. The transducer picks up the reflected waves and
sends them to a computer. The computer interprets the echoes into an
image of the heart walls and valves.
Other related procedures that may be used to assess the heart include
resting or exercise electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), Holter monitor,
signal-averaged ECG, cardiac catheterization, chest x-ray, computed
tomography (CT scan) of the chest, electrophysiological studies,
magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the heart, myocardial perfusion
scans, and radionuclide angiography.
Reasons for the Procedure
An echocardiogram may be performed for further evaluation of signs or
symptoms that may suggest:
Atherosclerosis - a gradual clogging of the arteries over
many years by fatty materials and other substances in the blood
Cardiomyopathy - an enlargement of the heart due to
thickening or weakening of the heart muscle
Congenital heart disease - defects in one or more heart
structures that occur during formation of the fetus, such as a
ventricular septal defect (hole in the wall between the two
lower chambers of the heart)
Congestive heart failure - a condition in which the heart
muscle has become weakened to an extent that blood cannot be
pumped efficiently, causing buildup (congestion) in the blood
vessels and lungs, and edema (swelling) in the feet, ankles, and
other parts of the body
Aneurysm - a dilation of a part of the heart muscle or
the aorta (the large artery that carries oxygenated blood out of
the heart to the rest of the body), which may cause weakness of
the tissue at the site of the aneurysm
Valvular heart disease - malfunction of one or more of
the heart valves that may cause an obstruction of the blood flow
within the heart
Cardiac tumor - a tumor of the heart that may occur on
the outside surface of the heart, within one or more chambers of
the heart (intracavitary), or within the muscle tissue of the
Pericarditis - an inflammation or infection of the sac
that surrounds the heart
There may be other reasons for your physician to recommend an
Before the Procedure
Your physician will explain the procedure to you and offer you
the opportunity to ask any questions that you might have about
Generally, no prior preparation, such as fasting or sedation, is
The technologist will ask you a brief history including what
medication you are taking
Notify your physician if you have a pacemaker.
During the Procedure
An echocardiogram may be performed on an outpatient basis or as part of
your stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your
Generally, an echocardiogram follows this process:
You will be asked to remove any jewelry or other objects that
may interfere with the procedure. You may wear your glasses,
dentures, or hearing aids if you use any of these.
You will be asked to remove clothing and will be given a gown to
You will lie on a table or bed, positioned on your left side. A
pillow or wedge may be placed behind your back for support.
You will be connected to an ECG monitor that records the
electrical activity of the heart and monitors the heart during
the procedure using small, adhesive electrodes. The ECG tracings
that record the electrical activity of the heart will be
compared to the images displayed on the echocardiogram monitor.
The room will be darkened so that the images on the echo monitor
can be viewed by the technologist.
The technologist will place warmed gel on your chest and then
place the transducer probe on the gel. You will feel pressure as
the technologist positions the transducer to get the desired
image of your heart.
During the test, the technologist will move the transducer probe
around and apply varying amounts of pressure to obtain images of
different locations and structures of your heart. The amount of
pressure behind the probe should not be uncomfortable. Let the
technologist know if it does make you uncomfortable.
After the procedure has been completed, the technologist will
wipe the gel from your chest and remove the ECG electrode pads.
You may then put on your clothes.
After the Procedure
You may resume your usual diet and activities unless your physician
advises you differently.
Generally, there is no special type of care following an echocardiogram.
However, your physician may give you additional or alternate
instructions after the procedure, depending on your particular