An echocardiogram uses sound waves to produce images of your heart. This commonly used test allows your doctor to see your heart beating and pumping blood. Your doctor may suggest an echocardiogram if he or she suspects problems with the valves or chambers of your heart or if heart problems are the cause of symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain. An echocardiogram can also be used to detect congenital heart defects.
There are no risks involved in a standard transthoracic echocardiogram. You may feel some discomfort similar to pulling off an adhesive bandage when the technician removes the electrodes placed on your chest during the procedure.
No special preparations are necessary for a standard transthoracic echocardiogram. You can eat, drink and take medications as you normally would.
During the echocardiogram, the technician will dim the lights to better view the image on the monitor. The technician will apply a special gel to your chest that improves the conduction of sound waves and eliminates air between your skin and the transducer — a small, plastic device that sends out sound waves and receives those that bounce back.
The technician will move the transducer back and forth over your chest. The sound waves create images of your heart on a monitor, which are recorded for your doctor to review. You may hear a pulsing “whoosh,” which is the ultrasound recording the blood flowing through your heart.
The test lasts about 30 to 45 minutes.