An echocardiogram is an image created through a process called echocardiography. Echocardiography, or an ultrasound of the heart, is used to diagnose a variety of heart conditions, including valve problems, congestive heart failure, and to assess damage following a heart attack.

How is an Echocardiogram Created?

A painless and non-invasive ultrasound technique called Doppler ultrasound is used during the echocardiography study to evaluate the blood flow through a blood vessel. The ultrasound technician will apply a gel directly on your skin. They will then pass a small probe, called a transducer, across your chest. The transducer will create high-frequency sound waves that will travel from the probe, through the gel, into your body. The probe collects the sounds that bounce back. A computer uses the collected sound wave data to create the echocardiogram.

When Would I get an Echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram creates detailed images of your heart’s chambers, valves, walls and the blood vessels, known as the aorta, arteries and veins, attached to your heart. 

Your medical provider may recommend an echocardiogram if:

  • you have a heart murmur
  • you have had a heart attack
  • you have unexplained chest pains
  • you have had rheumatic fever
  • you have a congenital heart defect.

This exam is designed to provide information on:

  • the size and shape of your heart
  • the size, thickness and movement of your heart’s walls
  • the heart’s pumping strength
  • if the heart valves are working correctly
  • if blood is leaking backwards through your heart valves, known as regurgitation
  • if the heart valves are too narrow, known as stenosis
  • if there is a tumor or infectious growth around your heart valves.

An echocardiogram can also identify problems with the outer lining of your heart, known as the pericardium, with large blood vessels entering and leaving the heart, blood clots in your heart’s chambers or abnormal holes between the chambers.


What Will I Experience?

You will lie on your back on an exam table. You may have your position adjusted to either side in order to improve the quality of the images captured during the exam. The technologist will place small metal disks, called electrodes, on your chest. The disks have wires that hook to an electrocardiograph machine. This machine keeps track of your heartbeat during your test.

An ultrasound technologist will apply a warm water-based gel to the area of the body being studied. The gel will help the transducer make secure contact with the body and eliminate air pockets between the transducer and the skin that can block the sound waves from passing into your body. The transducer is placed on the body and moved back and forth over the area of interest until the desired images are captured.

There is usually no discomfort from pressure as the transducer is pressed against the area being examined. However, if scanning is performed over an area that is tender or sensitive, you may feel some pressure or minor discomfort from the transducer.

Once the exam is complete, the clear ultrasound gel will be wiped off your skin. Any portions that are not wiped off will dry quickly. The ultrasound gel does not usually stain or discolor clothing.

Typically, an echocardiogram takes approximately 60 minutes to complete.

Ready to Schedule Your Echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram is a critical image your healthcare professional can use to diagnose a variety of heart conditions, including heart valve problems, congestive heart failure, and to assess damage following a heart attack. Contact us today to schedule your echocardiography or to any questions you may have.