Published: May 16, 2007
Updated: Aug. 22, 2011
What is an echocardiogram (or echocardiography)?
Echocardiography is a technique that sends sound waves into the chest to rebound from the heart's walls and valves. The recorded waves show the shape, texture, and movement of the valves on an echocardiogram. They also show the size of the heart chambers and how well they're functioning. This technique doesn't hurt or pose a risk to people.
Why is it ordered? What information will it give my doctors?
It will help determine if there is damage to the heart muscle wall and/or valves. Many diseases cause damage that affect wall motion and valve function. This test is often used after a person has a heart attack and the doctor wants to see how much of the heart muscle is working properly.
What should my health care professional know before I have this test done?
Where is it done?
In a special lab or in the doctors office if they have the equipment. It can be done on portable equipment so it is often done in a hospital room.
Do I need to have someone drive me home afterward?
Do I need to do anything to get ready for this test?
What happens during the test?
You will be asked to wear a patient gown with front access. Three leads will be placed on your chest. The technician will ask you to lie on your left side while she moves a probe over the surface of your chest. This probe gathers the images that the technician can see on a screen. You will be expected to occasionally take a deep breath and hold it to get clearer images. The procedure takes about 20 minutes.
Is this test painful?
No. You may feel slight pressure on your chest from the probe, but there is no pain. There is a gel applied to the skin or the surface of the probe.
What happens after the procedure?
After the procedure, you simply wipe off the gel and go home.
What are the risks of the procedure?
Nothing should happen as a result of this procedure
How do I get the results of this test?
You doctor will go over the results with you. The results are immediately available, but must first be interpreted by an echocardiography physician.
This article is intended as a resource for patients receiving their cancer care at Duke University Hospital or Duke Clinic. It is not intended to substitute for medical advice from your health care team. If your doctor’s instructions differ from the information in this article, please talk with your doctor before making any changes.
Source: Duke Cancer Patient Education Program / Patient & Family Education Committee 8/00