An echocardiogram, also called an echo test or heart ultrasound, is an exam that takes moving pictures of the heart with sound waves.
An echocardiogram will enable your doctor to see the details of your heart’s structure and to check how well your heart is working. This test may be needed if:
- You’ve had a heart attack
- You have unexplained chest pains
- You have a heart murmur
- You have a congenital heart defect
- You’ve had rheumatic fever
What happens during an echocardiogram?
An echocardiogram is a painless exam that utilizes a probe to produce sound waves in your body. The exam records the sound waves as they bounce off different parts of your heart and creates moving pictures that can be seen on a video screen.
For the exam, you will be asked to lie on a table. A technician known as a sonographer will apply a special jelly on the ultrasound probe and move it over your chest area. High-frequency sound waves will pick up images of your heart and valves. No X-rays will be used.
The exam usually takes 45 minutes to an hour to perform with no special preparation. After the exam, you will be free to go about your day and normal activities.