What is a transthoracic echocardiogram (echo)?

Echocardiography is a non-invasive medical test that uses sound waves to create images of the heart. This test is also known as an “echo” or “cardiac ultrasound.”

During an echocardiogram, a technician will place a special wand-like device called a transducer on the patient’s chest or abdomen. The transducer emits sound waves that bounce off the heart and create images that can be viewed on a monitor.

Echocardiography helps cardiologists evaluate the structure and function of the heart, diagnose heart conditions, and monitor the effectiveness of treatments.

Echocardiography is a safe test that can be performed on people of all ages, including infants and children. There is no radiation. The test is painless but there may be some discomfort from pressure of the transducer on the chest wall.

Who is it for?

Echocardiography is for anyone who has symptoms of heart disease or who is at risk for developing heart disease. Some common reasons why a doctor may order an echocardiogram include:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Heart murmur
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Monitoring the effectiveness of heart medications or treatments

What to expect on the day?

On the day of the echocardiogram, patients will typically be asked to remove all clothing above the waist. The technician will place small sticky patches called electrodes on your chest to monitor your heart rate and rhythm during the test.

The technician will then apply a special gel to the chest or abdomen and place the transducer on the gel. The transducer will be moved around to different areas of the chest to obtain images of the heart from different angles.

During the test, you may be asked to hold your breath briefly or change positions to help obtain the best images. The test typically takes between 30-45 minutes to complete.

After the test, patients can resume their normal activities immediately. The images obtained during the echocardiogram will be reviewed by a cardiologist, who will generate a report that other doctors can read.

Overall, echocardiography is a safe, painless, and non-invasive test that can provide important information about the structure and function of the heart.