If your doctor has some concerns about the health of your heart, one test they are likely to send you for is an echocardiogram. This test, which is similar to a sonogram, pushes sound waves through your skin and uses the way they bounce off various structures to generate a video. In this manner, the doctor and other practitioners can actually see your heart moving and beating. Echocardiograms can be extremely helpful for diagnosing everything from heart valve damage to myopathies, but what should you expect before, during, and after this test? Take a look.
Before: Preparing for Your Echocardiogram
Luckily, there is not much you need to do before an echocardiogram. You can eat and drink right up until your appointment. Your doctor may tell you to stop taking or delay taking certain medications if they want to see how your heart operates without those meds — but in other cases, you may be instructed to keep taking your meds as normal, too. You will remain awake throughout the procedure, so assuming you are physically capable of driving, there's no reason you can't drive yourself to and from the appointment.
During: Having Your Echocardiogram
When you arrive for your echocardiogram, a nurse may first take your vital signs. Then, you will be asked to remove your top and put on a hospital top that opens in the front. Several electrodes will be placed on your chest and back. These are sticky. They may feel a little odd on your skin, but they do not hurt.
Next, your practitioner will apply some gel to your skin, just over your heart. They'll then use a special sonic device, moving it over your chest and within the pool of gel. You'll see an image of your heart on the screen, and as the practitioner moves the sonic device to get a look at your heart from various angles, they'll be recording the video.
After: Interpreting the Results of Your Echocardiogram
You'll typically go home as soon as your echocardiogram is over. The video will be sent to your doctor, who will review it. They'll make an appointment with you to go over the results. This appointment might be a week or two after your test, so be patient. In some cases, you may get a diagnosis after an echocardiogram, or you may be sent for additional testing.
Echocardiography is really useful for the diagnosis of various heart-related conditions. But thankfully, they are simple and painless from the patient's perspective.