Ultrasound is one of the most widely used diagnostic procedures available. It provides a safe, non-invasive and virtually painless means of observing soft tissue anatomy on an outpatient basis.
Because it can be used in the most delicate conditions without major side effects, ultrasound has become one of the most popular diagnostic methods among both patients and physicians. Diagnostic ultrasound allows physicians to diagnose without invading the body with dyes, radiation or exploratory surgery.
Ultrasound imaging is based on the same principles involved in the sonar used by bats. During an exam, a sonographer moves a transducer over the part of the body to be imaged. The transducer functions as both a loudspeaker (to create the sounds) and a microphone (to record them). High-frequency sound waves reflect off internal structures (soft tissue, organs and blood flow), producing echoes that are processed into an image displayed on the ultrasound system monitor.
An echocardiogram is a safe, non-invasive ultrasound imaging procedure used to assess cardiac function. Echocardiography allows doctors to visualize the anatomy, structure, and function of the heart. The echocardiogram can show all four chambers of the heart, the heart valves, the blood vessels entering and leaving the heart, and the sack around the heart. It can lead to a quick diagnosis of heart valve problems or abnormal flow within the heart.
Before your Echocardiogram:
For a standard echo test, no special preparation is necessary. It is helpful to wear comfortable clothing with a shirt or blouse that is easy to take off.
What happens during the test:
- You will be asked to remove your clothing from the waist up (women will be given a gown to wear). Several electrodes will be placed on your chest to monitor your heartbeat.
- You then lie down on a special bed or exam table. To improve the quality of the pictures, a technologist applies a colorless gel to the area where the transducer will be placed. The gel may feel cool and moist, but it will be wiped off at the end of the test.
- The technologist places the transducer on your chest and uses a small amount of pressure to obtain the desired images. He or she then moves the transducer around on your chest, so that all parts of your heart can be observed.
- An echo exam usually takes about 20 to 45 minutes, depending on how many views of the heart are taken. When the test is over, you may return to your normal activities.
A copy of your echocardiogram test report will be sent to your Primary Care Physician within 48-72 hours. Please contact your Primary Care Physician or Cardiologist for your results.
Echocardiogram procedures are performed through St. Elizabeth's Cardiovascular Outpatient Testing in Suite 403 of the Southern Illinois Heart Institute Building at 340 West Lincoln Street.