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What Happens During An Echocardiogram?

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Updated March 12, 2009

The heart

An echocardiogram looks at the structure and function of the heart

Photo © A.D.A.M.
Question: What Happens During An Echocardiogram?
Answer: An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart. Ultrasound uses sound waves to help doctors see inside the body. It does not hurt or damage the body. During an echocardiogram, a doctor can watch the moving heart while it is beating and see many of its structures working.

An echocardiogram is the best way for a cardiologist (heart specialist) to see if a congenital heart defect is present. A cardiologist can also evaluate the heart of someone who has had a heart attack, or assess the pumping function of the heart.

During the echocardiogram, you will lie on your back and remove your clothing from the waist up. A warm gel will be spread on your chest. The ultrasound technician or cardiologist conducting the test will use a device called a transducer. The transducer transmits high-frequency ultrasound waves (you cannot hear them). The transducer will be placed on your chest near the breastbone. The technician may move the transducer around your chest to get different views of the heart. You may feel some pressure from the transducer being held against your chest but it is not painful.

The pictures created during the echocardiogram appear on a monitor on the ultrasound machine. The technician creates photographs and video recordings from the ultrasound images for the cardiologist to review. The echocardiogram images are added to your medical record.

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