Echocardiogram

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI
    Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI

    Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI

    Dr. Kulick received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Southern California, School of Medicine. He performed his residency in internal medicine at the Harbor-University of California Los Angeles Medical Center and a fellowship in the section of cardiology at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiology.

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How should one prepare for an echocardiogram?

There is no preparation for a transthoracic echocardiogram.

When a transesophageal echocardiogram is performed, the patient usually requires some sedation to tolerate the procedure. The stomach should be empty to prevent vomiting and aspiration into the lungs. For that reason, the patient should have nothing to eat or drink for many hours before the procedure. Due to the sedation, the patient will need a family member or friend to escort the patient home.

For a stress echocardiogram, the patient may need to walk on a treadmill or ride a bicycle. Comfortable shoes are recommended.

What happens during an echocardiogram test?

An echocardiogram is an office or outpatient procedure. Electrodes are placed on the chest wall to monitor heart rate and rhythm. The lights in the room may be dimmed to help see the images on the computer monitor. If contrast is used, an intravenous line will need to be started.

For a transthoracic echocardiogram, the patient's chest will need to be exposed. The technician will press the transducer or probe firmly on the chest wall to get the heart images. The patient may be asked to roll on their left side take deep breaths to help the probe better "see" the heart.

For a transesophageal echocardiogram, the patient will be monitored because of the need for intravenous sedation. A heart monitor and oxygen monitor will be placed; supplemental oxygen is usually provided by prongs placed in the nose and an intravenous line will be started. Once sedated, the cardiologist will pass a tube, with the transducer on its tip, through the mouth and position it in the esophagus at a level near the heart. The patient may or may or remember the procedure because many of the sedative medicines have an amnestic effect; but once the patient is fully awake, they may be discharged home with an escort.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/7/2015

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