An echocardiogram is the most common imaging test for heart disease. Heart-Healthy Living® guides you through the test so you know what to expect if a doctor asks you or a loved one to have an echo performed.
By Sara Broek
Photos by Blaine Moats
An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of your heart, much like the ultrasounds women have when they take the first look at their unborn baby. “If a person has underlying heart disease, or they’ve had a heart attack, you can tell what the overall damage is from the echo by how the heart is squeezing,” says cardiologist James Lovell, D.O., FACC, of the Iowa Clinic in Des Moines.
Preparations: You shouldn’t have to do anything such as fast or stop medication before this test. The echocardiogram commonly lasts 25–30 minutes, but allotting 45 minutes to an hour for this procedure is recommended.
When you arrive for your echocardiogram, you will be introduced to the sonographer, or physician, who will be performing your exam. You will be asked to disrobe from the waist up, and a gown will be provided for female patients.
Tip: Remove loose change, cell phones, keys, or wallets from your pockets before the exam. These items can cause discomfort, as you must lie down for the exam.