What is an echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram (echo) is a diagnostic test used to obtain pictures of your heart to help determine your heart function and to evaluate your heart valves. Echocardiograms can also alert physicians about any heart conditions you have such as tumors, fatty deposits, enlargement of the heart and congestive heart failure, as well as the status of the sack surrounding your heart (the pericardium). Since some heart conditions have no obvious symptoms, an echocardiogram is an important heart test. An echocardiogram is a noninvasive procedure that is performed in a physician’s office or clinical setting. It is also known as a transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE).  

Why choose Ohio State for an echocardiogram?

Ohio State’s Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital has a cutting-edge echocardiography team with internationally known researchers in the field. Our 3-D heart imaging technology provides detailed information to your physician about how your heart looks and works, as well as assesses your heart function and detects valve abnormalities or diseases. This imaging technology is used in addition to the basic echo exam, and it also helps to optimize care for patients with specialized cardiac devices. 

What to expect during an echocardiogram

Preparing for your procedure 

Check with your physician when scheduling your echocardiogram to ensure you do not need to abstain from food or drink prior to the test. Bring a list of current medications you are taking, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins and other supplements including herbals. You should wear comfortable clothing to your appointment and remove any jewelry prior to starting the test. 


During your procedure 

You will wear a hospital gown and lie on your side while the test is performed. Once the room is darkened, the medical technician will apply warm gel to your chest and place the transducer on the gel. As the technician moves the transducer around your chest you might feel some pressure. If the pressure becomes too uncomfortable, notify the technician. 

Under some circumstances, an IV is necessary to administer an echo contrast agent or saline contrast. The contrast agent helps optimize the study if the heart pictures are not clear, and the saline contrast looks for potential holes between the right and left sides of your heart. 

After your procedure 

There are no known adverse effects of the echocardiogram. There are very rare instances when patients have an allergic reaction to an echo contrast agent. In most cases, there are no specific procedures to follow after an echocardiogram, although your doctor may give you instructions depending on your specific health conditions. 

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