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Medically reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD

What Is an Echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram (also called an echo or cardiac ultrasound) uses sound waves to create pictures of the heart. This painless ultrasound test shows the structure of the heart and its parts and how well they're working.

Why Is an Echocardiogram Done?

Doctors may order an echocardiogram to look for any problems with the heart's walls and valves, the blood vessels leading to and from the heart, and the heart's pumping strength.

How Should I Prepare for an Echocardiogram?

You should be able to eat and drink normally beforehand. Do not put any lotions, creams, or powders on your chest on the day of the echocardiogram.

Wear a shirt that can be easily taken off for the test. You will be given a gown to wear. 

What Happens During an Echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram is done in a darkened room, while you are lying down. Small metal stickers (called electrodes) are placed on your chest. These measure the rhythm of your heart beating. Gel put on your chest helps sounds waves travel from the echocardiogram wand (called the transducer) to the heart and back again. The person doing the test will move the wand around to get pictures of the heart from different angles.

You will feel some pressure from the wand, but an echocardiogram is not painful.

How Long Does an Echocardiogram Take?

It usually takes 30 to 60 minutes to get the pictures needed. The gel and stickers are removed when the test is over.

When Are the Results Ready?

The doctor will review the echocardiogram and give you the results within 1 to 2 days.

Are There Any Risks From an Echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram is a safe procedure without any risks.

Medically reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: February 2018