An echocardiogram makes use of sound waves to bring out images of your heart. This standard test lets your doctor see your heart beating and pumping blood. In addition, the treating doctor may use the images from an echocardiogram to identify heart disease.
When It’s Done:
This test is performed to:
- To detect any problems with the valves or Heart chambers
- Check if cardiac issues are the cause of symptoms like shortness of breath or chest pain
- To detect any congenital heart defects before birth (fetal echocardiogram)
In this standard type of echocardiogram:
- A technician (sonographer) applies gel on a device (transducer).
- The sonographer presses the transducer firmly on your skin and directs an ultrasound beam via your chest to your heart.
- The transducer then records the sound wave echoes from your heart.
- A computer converts the echoes into movable images on a monitor.
- In case your ribs or lungs block the view, you will need a small amount of an intensifying agent injected through an intravenous (IV) line. The enhancing agent, which is usually safe and well tolerated, will make your heart’s structures appear more clearly on a monitor.
Preparing for a transthoracic echo
- This kind of echo does not need much preparation.
- Generally, before a transthoracic echo, no need to avoid food or liquids.
Continue to take your medications.
- You can wear anything.
- If the treating doctor needs more-detailed images or it is hard to get a direct image of your heart with a standard echocardiogram test, you will be recommended a transesophageal echocardiogram.
Preparation for transesophageal echocardiogram:
- Have someone drive you home post your test because you will be sedated and will not be able to drive for the next 24 hours.
- Do not consume food or liquids for at least six hours before your test. Specific instructions will be provided by your doctor. You must follow these strictly.
- Ask your care provider about when to take your usual medicines. You can take them at your usual time with a small sip of water.
- Leave any valuable personal items at home. Ideal to wear whatever is most comfortable for you.
Sound waves change the pitch when they are bound with the blood cells moving through your heart and blood vessels. Doppler signals help your doctor measure the direction and speed of the blood flow in your heart.
Doppler techniques are typically used in transesophageal and transthoracic echocardiograms. Techniques of Doppler can also be used to check problems in blood flow and pressure of blood in the arteries of your heart — which conventional ultrasound might not detect.
The blood flow seen on the monitor screen is colourized to help your doctor pinpoint any issues.
Preparing for 2D echo with doppler:
There are no particular restrictions or preparation other than wearing loose-fitting clothing before a 2D Doppler echocardiogram. Although the gel is water-soluble and should not stain, it can get messy and could get on your clothing, so please be aware and dress appropriately.
Few heart problems — particularly coronary artery blocks or narrowing (which supply blood to the heart muscle) — occur only during physical activity. Therefore, the treating doctor recommends a stress echocardiogram .However, an echocardiogram cannot provide information about any blocks in the arteries of the heart.
In a stress echocardiogram:
- Ultrasound images of your heart are taken prior to and instantly after a treadmill walk or riding a stationary bike
- If you are unable to exercise, you might get an injection of medication to make your heart pump.
Preparing for an exercise stress echo
- Your care provider shall give you detailed instructions on preparing for your test. More preparations are required for an exercise stress echo than other types of echo tests. These include:
- Do not eat or drink anything except sips of water for a minimum of four hours prior to your test.
- Avoid smoking on the day of your test.
- Avoid caffeine for 24 hours prior to the test. This includes any form of caffeine (A few over-the-counter pain medicines, (coffee, tea, and decaf drinks).
- Ask your care provider when and how to take your regular medications. For example, avoid taking certain heart medicines on the day of your test or also need to change the regular dose of diabetes medication.
- You will not be sedated, but you may still have assistance to drive you to and from the appointment. This is because you might feel post-test.
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes comfortable to walk or ride a stationary bike during the test, so wear what feels good.
To Avoid when:
No specific conditions when the test must be avoided. Inform the doctor if you are pregnant or taking any medications.
How to Prepare:
- No special preparations are required for a standard transthoracic echocardiogram. You may eat, drink and take medications as you regularly would.
- If you have other types of ECHO ordered , kindly read the instruction mentioned above.
UPDATED ON 15/11/2023