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What is an Echocardiogram Procedure?

Q: What is an Echocardiogram? Why is the test performed?

This test is performed to evaluate the valves and chambers of the heart in a non–invasive manner.

The echocardiogram allows doctors evaluate heart murmurs, check the pumping function of the heart, and evaluate patients who have had heart attacks. It is a very good screening test for heart disease in certain groups of patients.

Q: What is the procedure?
Highly trained technician or doctor places a hand–held plastic ultrasound probe against the patient’s chest. The probe is connected to large computer with a video screen. The probe emits sound waves that pass through the chest to the heart. The heart then reflects those sound waves back to the probe. The probe transmits those reflected signals to the computer, which reconstructs them into a picture of the heart. This picture is displayed on the screen and recorded on videotape or on a digital storage medium. Sometimes, an ultrasonic contrast agent is injected intravenously to enhance the quality of the sound wave pictures and give additional information about the amount of blood flow to the heart muscle.
Q: Is the Echocardiogram test safe?
There are no known harmful side effects from these sound waves. The test does not hurt because no needles are routinely used and nothing is placed inside the patient. The average test takes about 10–30 minutes. No patient preparation is required for an echocardiogram. The test can be done anywhere, at any time. You’re even allowed to eat before this test!


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