What You Need to Know
DISCLAIMER: All information contained in this webpage is intended for Canadian residents only and is NOT intended as specific medical advice for any individual with a medical condition similar to that described herein.
This page was last updated: Tue, Nov 18, 2003
What is an Echocardiogram? The echocardiogram is like sonar or radar. We bounce sound waves off your heart and take pictures of those sound waves as they bounce back to the machine. It sounds rather "high-tech" and it is! In the Navy, it takes a lot of training for the technician to be able to distinguish between a submarine and a whale. Similarily, our physicians and technicians undergo a lot of training so they can get great pictures of your heart and its movements. These pictures show us how well the muscle and valves are working and can even assess how blood is flowing through the heart. The sound waves will NOT cause any damage to the heart. A typical picture of an echocardiogram is seen below.
When you enter the room, you will be asked to take off your shirt or top and put on a hospital gown and then lie down on a bed. The technician may sit on the edge of the bed next to you as shown in the picture. He/she places some jelly and a transducer (a hand-held plastic wand) on the chest. The technician will then move the wand over the chest to take the best pictures of the heart from different directions. Sometimes, the technician may have to press rather firmly to improve the quality of the pictures. Please feel free to let the technician know if you feel any discomfort. At the end of the test, the technician will wipe of the jelly and you can get dressed. The technician will not be able to give you much information about the test results. A doctor must look at the entire test first and a report will then be sent to the doctor ordering the test.
Acknowledgements: Contributors to this information were: Dr. R. Yee M.D., Arrhythmia Service, LHSC (UC), Dr. A. Krahn MD, Arrhythmia Service, LHSC (UC), and various staff members.