Also known as: Heart Scan, EKG, Stress Test
There are different types of echocardiograms, each with their own procedural steps. These include:
- Transthoracic echocardiogram – This exam is the most common. It is non-invasive and uses an external transducer to emit ultrasound waves through the chest. It requires no preparation and is administered in about a half hour.
- Transesophageal echocardiogram – This exam uses a small endoscope (thin tube) with a built-in sound wave transducer. The endoscope is inserted into your chest via the mouth. The transducer then emits ultrasound waves from inside your body, helping image the heart in more detail. In order to maintain patient comfort, sedatives and numbing agents are provided. If your doctor recommends a transesophageal echo, you will also be asked not to eat for at least six hours before the procedure.
- Stress echocardiogram – This test is the same as a transthoracic echocardiogram, but it administered after elevating your heart rate, either through exercises or medication. It helps doctors evaluate how your heart functions when it is stressed.
Echocardiography carries little to no risks. In the case of a transesophageal echocardiogram, the endoscope used to image the heart may pose a slight risk of esophageal irritation and discomfort.