An echocardiogram, also known as an echo, is a non-invasive test that uses sound waves to build up a detailed picture of your heart. It is similar to ultrasound scanning used in pregnancy. All our echoes are performed by highly specialised advanced cardiac physiologists and will take between 15 – 45 minutes.
The echo report is produced by the physiologists and allows your doctor to evaluate and monitor your heart's health.
Why do I need an Echocardiogram?
An echocardiogram is a thorough and safe way to evaluate and assess your heart. You may require an echo for any (but not inclusive) of the following reasons:
If you are breathless or experience certain symptoms at rest or during exercise
To look for the cause of a heart murmur
To check the size of the heart chambers
To check for fluid around the heart
To check that the muscle of the heart is the right thickness and is pumping correctly
You are experiencing cardiac-sounding symptoms post Covid
You have Hypertension (High blood pressure) – This can cause the wall muscles to become thickened and eventually will cause heart enlargement.
You may also have self-referred yourself for an echo, this could be for any of the above reasons, or you may just want reassurance that your heart is healthy as part of your own health and well-being.
How to prepare for an echocardiogram?
No special preparations are needed for your echocardiogram. You may eat and drink as normal throughout the day and continue to take your usual medications. It may be helpful to bring a list of all your current medications with you as the physiologist performing your test may need to know what you are taking. Please bring with you your height and weight, this will help the physiologist assess your heart more accurately.
What to expect on the day
You will be called into the clinic room by your Physiologists, who will confirm your details and will explain the test. You will need to remove all clothing from your top half for the test, your privacy will be maintained as you will be behind a screen in a clinic room. You will be offered a disposable sheet or gown for extra privacy if you would like this.
You’ll be asked to lie on a couch or bed. 3 ECG electrodes (small, flat, sticky patches) will be placed onto your chest or back, this is to allow the physiologist to see what rhythm your heart is in and for the machine to record at appropriate times of the cardiac cycle. You will be asked to turn onto your left-hand side, this improves your images. If you are unable to turn onto your side, please inform the physiologists and they will do everything they can to obtain your images while you are on your back. You will not need to lie flat during any part of the procedure.
How does an echocardiogram work?
A gel is used on the end of the probe, to help the sound waves reach your heart and to allow the probe to be moved freely across your chest. It feels cold and sticky but is otherwise harmless.
The physiologist doing the procedure will move the probe in different areas of your chest around your heart. The probe gives off pulses of high-frequency sound waves which are inaudible to the human ear, these pass through your skin to your heart. The ultrasound waves ‘echo’ against the structures of your heart and the probe picks up these reflections and shows them as moving images on a screen. Different parts of the heart are seen as the probe is moved around on your chest.
The test is intimate as the physiologist will be close to you and have their arm around you.
What happens after an echocardiogram?
Once all the images have been recorded, the ECG electrodes will be removed, and you will be given some tissue to wipe the ultrasound gel off. At this point, you will be able to dress. The physiologist will then explain how the results will be sent. Obtaining the images is the first part of the test, more detailed analysis, and measurements still need to be taken, however, this will be done once you have left the clinic, therefore it is not possible to fully discuss the results with you immediately after the scan has finished.
Once you have left the clinic you are free to enjoy your day.