Echocardiogram / Echo
An echocardiogram, also called an
‘echo’ test, is an ultrasound scan of the
heart and surrounding blood vessels.
Echocardiograms enable cardiologists to get a thorough look at the heart’s structures, how it’s pumping and how blood is flowing through it. The tests can be useful for investigating and diagnosing a range of problems, as well as monitoring changes in people with a history of heart attack and heart failure, cardiomyopathy (thickening of the heart walls) and endocarditis (infection of the heart valves), or congenital heart problems.
The most commonly performed echo test is called a transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE). During the procedure, a specialist will use a probe held against your chest that delivers a series of soundwaves to produce a detailed image of your heart and blood vessels. This will appear on a screen separately.
You’ll need to remove your upper clothing and will be asked to lie on your left side. Electrodes (small sensors attached to sticky patches) will be applied to your chest to monitor your heart rhythm, and the specialist will apply a gel either directly onto your skin or on the end of the probe. This makes it easier to move the probe around comfortably. The test doesn’t hurt and you won’t be able to hear the soundwaves emitting from the probe – but you may hear some swishing sounds picked up by the scan, which is completely normal. The procedure usually takes around 15-60 minutes to complete. The electrodes will be gently removed before you’re able to get dressed.
The scan images will be closely assessed by a cardiologist and, if necessary, any additional investigations or treatments required will be discussed with you during a follow-up appointment.