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What is it?

An echocardiogram is a painless, harmless test that uses high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to examine the heart's anatomy and function. This test provides information about your heart's size and function, the appearance of the valves and the thickness of the muscle. Echocardiography is used with Doppler ultrasound and color flow imaging to study blood flow characteristics.

  • Highly advanced procedure that uses non-invasive high frequency ultrasound waves to evaluate heart functions.
  • It gives information about the heart’s structures and blood flow without anything other than sound waves entering the body.
  • Preliminary findings and technologists observations available immediately.
  • Critical findings reports produced by licensed cardiologists. Services available in select areas only. Call PPX at 1-866-895-2119 to see if echos performed by PPX are available in your area.

Why is Echocardiogram Used?

Echocardiogram can help detect, diagnose or monitor many heart conditions. The following is a general indication of the types of conditions echocardiogram is used to detect and is not meant to be all-inclusive.

  • Detects clots within the heart
  • Evaluates damage after a heart attack
  • Diagnoses heart defects, an enlarged heart, and heart and artery diseases
  • Measures the blood flow through the heart and its vessels
  • Evaluates the thickness of the chambers of the heart
  • Determines the origin of a heart murmur

The Test

The entire test lasts about 45 minutes. The echocardiogram will be performed by a sonographer, a specially trained ultrasound technologist. The sonographer will attach small adhesive patches with wires to record the timing of your heartbeat. The sonographer will obtain ultrasound pictures of your heart using a small hand-held transducer and water-soluble gel. The lights will be dimmed to reduce glare so that the sonographer can better see the picture monitor.

Changes in body position are sometimes needed to get better pictures. While the Doppler ultrasound test is performed, you will hear a swishing sound as the instrument receives and processes the signals. Doppler ultrasound is particularly helpful in the evaluation of heart murmurs. Color ultrasound imaging provides additional information about direction and distribution of blood flow. When this is being performed, you will notice multiple colors on the monitor screen.

Is it Safe?

Sound waves do not cause pain. The only discomfort you may experience would be related to the pressure of the transducer against your skin. There are no reports of complications related to the use of diagnostic ultrasound.

Preparing for the Test

There is no need for any special preparation. You may eat and go about your normal activities unless otherwise informed. Do continue to take all medications prescribed by your doctor and follow your doctor's orders as usual.