Noninvasive Cardiovascular Imaging

Using soundwaves to examine your moving heart

You might need to have noninvasive cardiovascular imaging so your physician can check your heart size, shape and function. This special type of ultrasound is called echocardiography and is performed by technologists to diagnose heart conditions.

Overview

You might need to have noninvasive cardiovascular imaging so your physician can check your heart size, shape and function. This special type of ultrasound is called echocardiography and is performed by technologists to diagnose heart conditions.

Examining Your Moving Heart

Echocardiography uses sound waves to create moving pictures of the heart to check for aneurysms, cardiomyopathy, congenital heart defects, congestive heart failure and valve disease. Cardiologists who examine your echocardiograms can see your heart’s structure and movement. They look for leaks, blockages and other problems.

Echocardiography doesn’t use radiation and is harmless and painless. The test usually takes about an hour. Our technologists and doctors make sure you are comfortable and understand what is happening during the test.

Types of Echocardiograms

Your healthcare provider selects from these types of echocardiograms, depending on your needs:

Resting echocardiogram

You lie on an exam table, and the technologist places small metal disks (electrodes) on your chest, connected to a machine. The technologist moves a special wand (transducer) over your chest. He or she applies a clear gel to your skin to help the wand glide more easily.

Stress echocardiogram

You have a resting echocardiogram, followed by an exercise echocardiogram. For this, you exercise on a treadmill or stationary bicycle, usually for 5 to 10 minutes, until your heart rate reaches a certain point. The second test checks for problems that can occur when your heart rate speeds up. You are hooked up to the machine through the electrodes on your chest while you exercise to monitor your heart.

If you cannot exercise, you are given an intravenous medication to speed your heart rate for the test.

What to Expect

Examining Your Moving Heart

Echocardiography uses sound waves to create moving pictures of the heart to check for aneurysms, cardiomyopathy, congenital heart defects, congestive heart failure and valve disease. Cardiologists who examine your echocardiograms can see your heart’s structure and movement. They look for leaks, blockages and other problems.

Echocardiography doesn’t use radiation and is harmless and painless. The test usually takes about an hour. Our technologists and doctors make sure you are comfortable and understand what is happening during the test.

Types of Echocardiograms

Your healthcare provider selects from these types of echocardiograms, depending on your needs:

Resting echocardiogram

You lie on an exam table, and the technologist places small metal disks (electrodes) on your chest, connected to a machine. The technologist moves a special wand (transducer) over your chest. He or she applies a clear gel to your skin to help the wand glide more easily.

Stress echocardiogram

You have a resting echocardiogram, followed by an exercise echocardiogram. For this, you exercise on a treadmill or stationary bicycle, usually for 5 to 10 minutes, until your heart rate reaches a certain point. The second test checks for problems that can occur when your heart rate speeds up. You are hooked up to the machine through the electrodes on your chest while you exercise to monitor your heart.

If you cannot exercise, you are given an intravenous medication to speed your heart rate for the test.

You don’t need to do anything special to prepare for an echocardiogram. You can eat and drink as you normally would.

You change into a gown so the technologist can access your chest area. Usually you can leave on your pants and shoes. You may need to remove jewelry.

Preparing For Your Exam

You don’t need to do anything special to prepare for an echocardiogram. You can eat and drink as you normally would.

You change into a gown so the technologist can access your chest area. Usually you can leave on your pants and shoes. You may need to remove jewelry.

Your technologist tells you when to expect the results of the test. You can go back to normal activities.

After Your Exam

Your technologist tells you when to expect the results of the test. You can go back to normal activities.

Be sure to write down in advance the questions you want to ask your provider so you don’t forget them at your appointment.

  • Will the test hurt?
  • What if I can’t exercise as fast as you want during a stress test?
  • How will I find out the results of my test?
  • Can I bring my partner to the test with me?
  • Will I need other tests after this one?
  • If you find something wrong with my heart, what happens next?

Questions to Ask

Be sure to write down in advance the questions you want to ask your provider so you don’t forget them at your appointment.

  • Will the test hurt?
  • What if I can’t exercise as fast as you want during a stress test?
  • How will I find out the results of my test?
  • Can I bring my partner to the test with me?
  • Will I need other tests after this one?
  • If you find something wrong with my heart, what happens next?

Patient Stories for Noninvasive Cardiovascular Imaging

MedlinePlus Echocardiograms

This national government website includes information about echocardiograms and how your doctor uses them to guide your treatment.

Resources

MedlinePlus Echocardiograms

This national government website includes information about echocardiograms and how your doctor uses them to guide your treatment.