Also known as: diagnostic cardiac ultrasound.

What is echocardiography?

An echo uses sound waves to create pictures of your heart’s chambers, valves, walls and the blood vessels (aorta, arteries, veins) attached to your heart. A probe called a transducer is passed over your chest. The probe produces sound waves that bounce off your heart and “echo” back to the probe. These waves are changed into pictures viewed on a monitor. It is the primary test to diagnose structural heart disease in children.

What happens during the test?

Echo tests are done by specially trained technicians called sonographers. The test takes about an hour. You lie on a table and a technician places small metal disks (electrodes) on your chest. The disks have wires that hook to an electrocardiograph machine. An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) keeps track of your heartbeat during your test.

  1. The room is dark so your technician can better see the monitor.
  2. Your technician puts gel on your chest and abdomen to help sound waves pass through your skin.
  3. Your technician may ask you to move or hold your breath briefly to get better pictures.
  4. The probe (transducer) is passed across your chest. The probe produces sound waves that bounce off your heart and “echo” back to the probe.
  5. The sound waves are change into pictures and displayed on a video monitor.
  6. The pictures on the video monitor are recorded so your doctor can look at them later.

Is any special preparation needed?

If your child is old/mature enough to stay still for about an hour, no special preparation is required. However if your child is unable to stay still, sedation will be administered. The specialized sedation nurse will call you the before to give you instruction.

What are the risk factors?

  • An echo can’t harm you.
  • An echo doesn’t hurt and has no side effects.

Echocardiography at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital: Echocardiography at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital are performed by highly trained technicians and are interpreted by board-certified pediatric cardiologists with expertise in non-invasive imaging. The echocardiography laboratory is accredited by the intersocietal accreditation commission.

Reviewed by: Nao Sasaki, MD

This page was last updated on: May 12, 2023 03:29 PM

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