Understanding the Echocardiogram or Cardiac Ultrasound

If you have experienced shortness of breath or chest pains and your doctor wants to know if heart problems cause such symptoms, expect to undergo an echocardiogram. This will also be the recommendation if you suffer a heart attack or any heart ailment. If you wonder if this step is necessary, this article will look into what echocardiogram is and why it is an integral part of the treatment process:

What Is an Echocardiogram?

The echocardiogram is a test that makes use of ultrasound to showcase how your heart and its parts are currently working. The doctor sees sound waves that translate into moving pictures, allowing them to ascertain your condition. These waves are what they refer to as the “echo.”

Besides ensuring that your symptoms are not due to a heart attack, this test also allows doctors to see how well your heart beats and pumps blood. It checks if there are problems in the various valves around your heart and could determine if the baby inside you (if you’re pregnant) has congenital heart defects.

Simply put, this test would help doctors diagnose any heart-related problems that you or your child might be experiencing. 

The echocardiogram also has different types, depending on what your doctor needs to assess. Here are some of them:

  • Doppler ultrasound: to help you understand your blood flow 
  • Stress echocardiograms: to see how your heart performs during particular activities
  • Transesophageal echocardiograms: to see a specific area of the heart more clearly

Why Do You Need an Echocardiogram?

Your doctor would request an echocardiogram for the following reasons:

  • They need to lo see any evidence of heart disease
  • They need to monitor your heart valves’ performance
  • They are checking if the surgical or medical treatment is working well
  • They need to look for blood clots
  • They need to see if tumors are growing inside your heart
  • They need to assess your blood flow

These are only some of the many things they would look into your heart, and it already shows how powerful the test is. Should your doctor ask you to undergo it, it would be best to follow their request.

What Happens When You Undergo an Echocardiogram Procedure

If you are worried about experiencing any pain during the procedure, you should know that it is unlikely. Here are the things you should expect:

  • They would ask you to take off your clothing from the waist up and let you wear a hospital gown.
  • They would apply a cool gel onto your chest.
  • You would see a handheld ultrasound wand or the transducer that they would move across your chest. This process captures the images of the heart.
  • Some technicians would ask you to hold your breath or make small movements, depending on what they need to see in your test results.

Aside from the gel’s coolness and the transducer’s slight pressure, there is nothing else to feel during the process. However, the duration would vary depending on the type of echocardiogram test you would need. Some require 40 minutes of observation, while others would only need ten. The process also differs depending on what they are trying to discern. During the echocardiogram process, they will see images of your heart in real-time. It also gets recorded for viewing later. 


The echocardiogram is an essential part of health care. Without this test, detecting any heart ailment and checking your heart’s health would not be as simple and helpful as it is today. This test is not something you should avoid. Instead, follow your doctor’s recommendations so they can assess your condition better and provide you with the necessary treatment.


For primary cardiopulmonary care in New Jersey, visit us at the Garden State Medical Group. Our goal is to provide comprehensive and individualized care for our patients, from cardiopulmonary to on-site radiology services. We use only the latest tools and techniques. Contact us today to learn more. 


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