What you can expectBy Mayo Clinic staff
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During the procedure
An echocardiogram can be done in the doctor's office or a hospital. After undressing from the waist up, you'll lie on an examining table or bed. The technician will attach sticky patches (electrodes) to your body to help detect and conduct the electrical currents of your heart.
If you'll have a transesophageal echocardiogram, your throat will be numbed with a numbing spray or gel. You'll likely be given a sedative to help you relax.
During the echocardiogram, the technician will dim the lights to better view the image on the monitor. You may hear a pulsing "whoosh," which is the machine recording the blood flowing through your heart.
Most echocardiograms take less than an hour, but the timing may vary depending on your condition. During a transthoracic echocardiogram, you may be asked to breathe in a certain way or to roll onto your left side. Sometimes the transducer must be held very firmly against your chest. This can be uncomfortable — but it helps the technician produce the best images of your heart.
After the procedure
If your echocardiogram is normal, no further testing may be needed. If the results are concerning, you may be referred to a heart specialist (cardiologist) for more tests. Treatment depends on what's found during the exam and your specific signs and symptoms. You may need a repeat echocardiogram in several months or other diagnostic tests, such as a cardiac computerized tomography (CT) scan or coronary angiogram.
- Echocardiography. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/echo/. Accessed Aug. 20, 2012.
- Douglas PS, et al. ACCF/ASE/ACEP/ASNC/SCAI/SCCT/SCMR 2011 appropriateness use criteria for echocardiography. Journal of the American Society of Echocardiography. 2011;24:229.
- Pellikka PA, et al. American Society of Echocardiography recommendations for performance, interpretation, and application of stress echocardiography. Journal of American Society of Echocardiography. 2007;20:1021.
- Manning WJ. Principles of Doppler echocardiography. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Aug. 20, 2012.