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Transthoracic Echocardiography

What is this test?

This test uses sound waves to obtain moving pictures of the heart. A machine generates these sound waves, called ultrasound, and then listens for the return of these sounds as they bounce back from the walls and valves of the heart, in the same way you would listen for an echo bouncing back to your ears from a distant cliff. The machine interprets the sounds to create a picture of your heart on a monitor. These pictures are recorded onto videotape or into a computer.

How is this test performed?

Electrical wires, called electrodes, are painlessly placed onto your skin. You will be then asked to lie on your side or back. Then a sound-producing probe is put on different parts of your chest to allow a specially trained technician to obtain pictures of your heart. It usually takes about 30 minutes to obtain the images. For most people, the test is painless. If your chest is sensitive to touch, please let us know before the test or if you are having discomfort during the procedure or if you are unable to assume certain positions. If your heart is not well seen, it may be necessary to start an IV and inject a special echo contrast agent to get better pictures of your heart.

What will it show?

Pictures of the walls, chambers, valves, large blood vessels, and lining of the heart. The test will show the size of different parts of your heart, the function of the pumping chambers and the valves and whether there is abnormal fluid near your heart.

Patient preparation and recovery

Please bathe prior to the test as you will need to completely disrobe from the waist up. With the exception of deodorant, please do not apply lotions, oils, powder, or perfumes after bathing. A hospital gown will be provided for women or as needed. It is advisable to go to the restroom just before the test as you will need to lie still for 30-45 minutes. Fasting is not required, though it is preferable that you do not eat more than a light meal beforehand as gas in the stomach can interfere with our ability to obtain some images. No special recovery is needed afterwards. Please let us know if sitting up from a lying position makes you dizzy.


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