This is an ultrasound test of your heart that requires you to lie on your left side (and briefly on your back as well) for approximately 30 – 45 minutes although you should plan on spending at least one hour from your arrival at the office until you leave. There is no special preparation for this test.

Echocardiography is a technique that uses sound waves to create pictures of the heart. These pictures allow physicians the ability to assess the valves of the heart as well as the size and function of the chambers. Your doctor may ask you to have an echo in order for the cardiologist to*:

  • Assess the overall function and size of your heart.
  • Determine the presence of many types of heart disease. This can includes conditions such as
    — valvular heart disease [when valves leak too much (regurgitation) or do not open adequately (stenosis)],
    — myocardial disease (heart muscle problems that often cause congestive heart failure),
    — pericardial (the lining around your heart or “bag” that your heart lies in) disease,
    — cardiac masses (things that should not be in your heart) and
    — congenital heart disease (abnormalities of the heart present since birth).
  • Follow the progress of valve disease or heart failure over time.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of medical or surgical treatments.

*While these are the most common reasons, other reasons might obviously lead to appropriate testing.


No preparation is necessary for this examination, although you may want to avoid a large meal for 2 hours before the test for your own comfort. Please take your usual medications as prescribed by your physicians.


A cardiac ultrasonographer will ask you to remove your clothing from the waist up and change into an examination gown. Electrodes will be placed on your chest to allow the sonographer to monitor your heart’s electrical activity during the study. You will be asked to lie on your left side on a special ultrasound table. The sonographer will place a hand-held wand (a scanning device called an ultrasound transducer) on several areas of your chest. The wand will have a small amount of clear gel on the end. The gel may feel cool, but will not harm your skin. You will hear some sounds during the examination, which is part of the normal Doppler signal (which measures actual blood flow). The test will take between 30 and 45 minutes to complete. Please take your usual medications unless instructed by your physician.

NOTE: Do not discontinue any medication without first talking with your physician. If you have any questions, please feel free to call our office at (586) 468-8500. Thank you.