Echocardiography (Echo)

Echocardiography (also known as echocardiogram) is a non-invasive ultrasound procedure used to assess the heart's function and structures. PinnacleHealth cardiologists are expert at using this diagnostic tool to identify heart conditions and appropriate treatment plans.

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Heart, Vascular & Lung Care

What is echocardiography?

During an echocardiogram, a transducer (similar to a microphone) 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, bouncing or "echoing" off of the heart structures. These sound waves are sent to a computer that can create moving images of the heart walls and valves.

An echocardiogram may utilize several special types of echocardiography:
  • M-mode Echocardiography.  This produces an image that is similar to a tracing rather than an actual picture of heart structures.
  • Doppler Echocardiography.  Measures and assesses the flow of blood through the heart's chambers and valves.
  • Color Doppler.  An enhanced form of Doppler echocardiography in which different colors are used to designate the direction of blood flow.
  • 2-D (two-dimensional) Echocardiography. Used to "see" the actual motion of the heart structures in real-time so that the heart's structures can be observed.
  • 3-D (three-dimensional) echocardiography.  Captures three-dimensional views of the heart structures with greater depth than 2-D echo.

What is the purpose of echocardiography?

An echocardiogram may be performed for further evaluation of signs or symptoms that may suggest:
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Aneurysm
  • Valvular heart disease
  • Cardiac tumor
  • Pericarditis

How To Prepare

Your cardiologist will explain the procedure to you and offer you the opportunity to ask any questions that you might have about the procedure. No prior preparation, such as fasting or sedation is required. Be sure to notify your doctor of all medications (prescription and over-the-counter) and herbal supplements that you are taking or if you have a pacemaker.

What to Expect

  • An echocardiogram may be performed on an outpatient basis or as part of your stay in a hospital.
  • Lying on a table or bed, positioned on your left side, you will be connected to an EKG monitor that records the electrical activity of the heart and monitors the heart during the procedure. The EKG tracings that record the electrical activity of the heart will be compared to the images displayed on the echocardiogram monitor.
  • The technologist will apply warmed gel to your chest and then place the transducer probe on the gel, moving the transducer probe around, with various 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.

After the Procedure

After the procedure has been completed, the technologist will wipe the gel from your chest and remove the EKG electrode pads.

You may resume your usual diet and activities unless your doctor advises you differently. Generally, there is no special type of care following an echocardiogram. However, your doctor may give you additional or alternate instructions after the procedure, depending on your diagnosis or physical condition.