Dr Simon Kennon MB ChB, FRCP, MD Consultant Cardiologist

Echocardiography

An Echocardiogram (often shortened to ‘echo’) is an ultrasound scan of the heart. You may know that pregnant women have ultrasound scans to see if there are any problems with the baby. An echocardiogram uses the same machine to look at the heart - to see how well the heart is working. It is commonly used to assess heart muscle and valve function.It is also used to look for clots and tumours in the heart and accumulation of fluid around the heart.

What to expect

The test takes up to about 45 minutes. No special preparation is required.

You will be asked to undress to your waist and lie on your left-hand side. A clear gel is then spread over the ultrasound sensor to provide a good contact with the skin. The sensoris then moved across your chest, sending out sound waves and picking up the returning echoes to build a moving picture of your heart which is displayed on a screen. When the heart valves are being assessed there is often a ‘whooshing’ noise which can be a little startling, but is normal and not a cause for concern.