What is an Echocardiogram?
Echo is the short way of saying echocardiogram. An echo is another test that lets doctors see inside your body. The echo is special since it only takes pictures of your heart. It can show the shape and size of your heart. Just like the name, the echo uses sound waves to take the pictures; it bounces invisible sound waves off of your heart to create a picture of what it looks like. You will not feel or hear these sound waves in your body.
Why do I need to have an Echo?
The doctor needs to see a picture of your heart and the best way to take the picture is to use the echo machine. A regular X-Ray cannot see the heart, so an echo has to be used.
What does an Echo look like?
An echo machine looks like a computer. The technologist (the person taking the picture) uses a smooth flat wand and a special gel to take the picture. The gel and wand lets the computer hear the sound waves from your heart. Once the pictures have been taken, they are printed and shown to the radiologist. He is a special doctor who looks at the pictures.
What happens when I have an Echo?
A porter will come to bring you to the special room to have the echo. A technologist (the person who will take the pictures) will greet you and explain what will happen.
The technologist will give you a gown to wear, this looks like a backward housecoat, you may already be wearing one. You will lie down on a bed beside the computer. The technologist usually turns the lights down so that they can see the pictures on the computer better. Next the technologist will put gel on your chest over the area where your heart is. He or she will move the smooth, flat wand on your skin where the gel is. The wand is attached to the computer. While the technologist moves the wand over your chest, you will be able to see a wavy and fuzzy image on the screen. While the technologist is moving the wand, he or she will also be touching buttons on the computer keyboard.
It is important to remember to stay still, if you move a lot, the picture will not be clear and the test will take longer. The test is usually short and takes about 15-30 minutes. Once the pictures are done, they will be printed off to show the doctor. The technologist will wipe the gel off with a soft towel and then you will be able to go back to your room.
What will the Echo feel like?
The echo will not hurt. The gel may feel a little cool and sticky. The wand may press down onto your skin a little bit, but it will not hurt. Remember to lie still so that the technologist can get a clear picture. Thinking about your favourite thing to do may help you stay still.
Preparing for the test
Your nurse will give you the information you need to help you get ready to have your echo. Sometimes you may have to do nothing to get ready.
If you have any questions about the test, always ask!