What is an Echocardiogram?

An Echocardiogram, also known as an Echo, is an ultrasound scan of the heart which is used to assess both its structure and function and is carried out by specially trained Cardiac Physiologists. An Echo uses ultrasound waves to produce images of the heart on a screen; the same technology used for performing pregnancy scans on unborn babies. Your Echo Report will be produced by the Cardiac Physiologist and overseen by our Consultant Cardiologist Clinical Lead.

The Examination

Your examination will be performed with you lying on a couch, ideally, on your left-hand side. The Cardiac Physiologist will attach 3 self-adhesive electrodes to your chest and apply ultrasound gel to a device called a transducer. This sends and receives the harmless ultrasound waves. The gel allows the ultrasound beam to travel through your chest wall so that it is possible to see the heart.

The transducer will be pressed against your skin with a moderate pressure to facilitate the transmission of the ultrasound waves. This can be uncomfortable but should not be painful. The Cardiac Physiologist will acquire ultrasound images and audio recordings by moving the transducer around the chest, stomach and neck. During recording you may be asked to change position or hold your breath so that the best quality images can be obtained.

An echocardiogram will usually take between 15 and 30 minutes. In some circumstances, a more detailed scan may be needed which may take up to 40 minutes.

Are there any side effects?

No – an echocardiogram is generally painless and harmless. However, some patients may find it slightly uncomfortable due to the positioning of the probe on the chest.

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