What is an echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram is a diagnostic ultrasound exam using high frequency sound waves to study the heart.  The images obtained allow the doctor to assess the function of your heart including your heart valves. Ultrasound does not involve the use of any radiation and is safe.

How is the examination performed?

An echocardiogram is done by placing a small amount of warm ultrasound gel on your chest and by pressing a small probe (transducer) over the area to be imaged.  Sound waves generated by the ultrasound machine will be directed over the heart. Images of your heart in motion will be reconstructed using information in the sound waves that reflect off the heart and return to the probe.

Who is a candidate for a echocardiogram?

Your doctor may order an echocardiogram if you have symptoms that may be concerning for heart disease. Typical symptoms include shortness of breath, leg swelling, fainting or irregular heart beats.

Will I need to prepare for the exam?

No, there isn’t any preparation for this exam.

What will I experience?

A registered Cardiovascular Ultrasound Technologist will perform your exam and can answer any question you may have.  You will be asked to lie down on your left side.  The Technologist will place some warm gel on you and begin pressing the transducer or probe against your chest.  A series of images will be taken that last about 30-45 minutes.  After the images are acquired, the Technologist will give you a towel to wipe off the gel.  Rarely, if the heart is difficult to visualize, we may give you an injection of a small, safe amount of contrast called Optison. This will improve the image quality. If this occurs, the technologist will explain everything and go through a consent form for you to sign.

What happens next?

Your images will be analyzed by the Technologist and sent to the Cardiologist for interpretation.

Your images will be interpreted by a State of New Mexico licensed and board certified Cardiologist.  A copy of the Cardiologist’s report will be sent to your clinician who will explain the results to you.

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