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An echocardiogram is an ultrasound scan of your heart. People often associate the term ultrasound with scans performed during pregnancy.

Ultrasound scans are also frequently used to examine the heart. The images produced by an ultrasound of the heart give an impression of:

  • The thickness and movement of your heart’s wall
  • Previous infarcts
  • The pumping strength
  • How your heart valves work (the technician can visualise whether there is any leakage or narrowing)

It is a simple and painless test.

The test

You will be asked to remove your clothes from the waist up. Your technician puts gel on your chest to help sound waves pass through your skin. The probe (transducer) is passed across your chest. Your technician may ask you to move or hold your breath briefly to get better pictures. The probe produces sound waves that bounce off your heart and “echo” back to the probe. These sound waves create images and calculate the flow of blood through your heart. The images on the video monitor are recorded so your doctor can look at them later.

Duration of the test

It takes between 25 and 30 minutes to produce an echocardiogram.