FAQ

What is an echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram is a painless, harmless test that uses high frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to examine the heart's anatomy and function.
An echocardiogram is a test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart. The picture is much more detailed than a plain x-rayimage and involves no radiation exposure.Alternative names include: Ultrasound of the heart; Doppler ultrasound of the heart; transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE).

Why is the test performed?

This test is done to evaluate the valves and chambers of the heart in a noninvasiveway. The echocardiogram allows doctors to diagnose, evaluate, and monitor:
  • Abnormal heart valves
  • Heart chambers size and function
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Damage to the heart muscle in patients who have had heart attacks
  • Heart murmurs
  • Inflammation in the sac around the heart (pericarditis)
  • Infection on or around the heart valves (infective endocarditis)
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • The pumping function of the heart for people with heart failure
  • The source of a blood clot after a stroke or TIA
  • Should I Discontinue My Medications?

    Do not discontinue your usual medications unless instructed to do so by your physician.

    How long does the echo study last?

    Depending on the image quality and complexity of the heart condition, the study may take anywhere from 20 minutes to one hour.

    What happens during the test?

    You will be asked to remove your clothes from the waist up and lay down on an examination table. Electrodes will be placed on your chest to allow for an ECG to be done. A gel will be spread on your chest and then the transducer will be applied. You will feel a slight pressure on your chest from the transducer. You may be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds or to roll over onto your side in order to capture clear images.

    Will I Experience any Discomfort?

    You should feel no major discomfort during the test. However, in certain instances, the transducer must be held very firmly by the technologist against your chest and this pressure can be uncomfortable, especially over your ribs.

    When will I get the results of the study?

    The echo images will be reviewed by a cardiologist, and a report is then sent to your doctor, who will discuss the results with you. Please note that the echo technologist will not discuss the results with you.

    How may I request an echocardiographic (echo) study?

    An echocardiogram is a test which has to be ordered by a physician, a surgeon or a nurse practitioner. To order an echocardiogram or a cardiology consultation, the health practitioner must complete the required requisition and fax it to: 306.585.3993

    Are there any risks or side effects from this study that I should know about?

    There are no known risks associated with this test.

    Is the study safe during pregnancy?

    Yes. There are no known risks associated with this test.

    What is a stress echocardiogram?

    A stress echocardiogram is a test to determine how well the heart functions under the stress of exercise. The test helps to diagnose the presence or absence of coronary artery disease (blockage of the arteries that supply the heart with oxygen). An echocardiogram is performed at rest, then during low, moderate and peak levels of exercise. The exercise is performed using a semi-supine bicycle ergometer.

    Does a stress echocardiographic study require a referral from a specialist?

    Yes. A referral from a physician or a surgeon is required. The cardiologist in our lab will evaluate the patient before starting the test to see if the test is indicated and can be safely performed.

    What happens during the stress echo study?

    The technologist will explain the procedure to you, take a brief medical history, and ask you to provide informed consent. This is required before the test can proceed. Ten adhesive electrodes will be applied to your chest after the sites have been cleaned with alcohol, shaved (if necessary), and mild abrasion applied. The semi-supine bicycle ergometer will rotate you onto your left side while the technologist takes several resting echo views of the heart. This is done by placing gel on a small plastic ultrasound probe and positioning it on the left side of your chest. To get good quality images, it is necessary to apply some pressure with the probe. Following resting blood pressure and electrocardiogram (ECG) recordings, you will be asked to pedal a supine bicycle ergometer. On the bicycle, the resistance is very light at the beginning but will increase in difficulty every two minutes. The effectiveness of a stress echocardiogram relies on the effort made by the patient. It is very important that you pedal as long as possible to reach the target workload. The test usually takes about ten minutes. Your blood pressure is monitored throughout the procedure. Should a problem occur, the technologist will stop the test immediately. A nearby cardiologist will be called if necessary. It is very important for you to tell the technologist if you experience any symptoms, such as chest pain, dizziness, unusual shortness of breath, or extreme fatigue. Echo images will be taken at three separate times during exercise: at low level, mid-level and peak level. Each time, the technologist will rotate the supine bike bed to obtain the images. Your blood pressure and ECG will be monitored for three to six minutes after exercise. The ECG tracings and the echo images will be reviewed by a cardiologist, and a report is then sent to your doctor, who will discuss the results with you.

    How may I request a stress echocardiographic study?

    A referral from a physician or a surgeon is required.

    How long does the stress echo study last?

    The test usually takes about twenty minutes. Your blood pressure and ECG will be monitored for three to six minutes after exercise.

    How Should I Prepare for it?

    By taking the following steps, patients can help to make the results of the stress echocardiogram as accurate as possible: Avoid strenuous activity for 12 hours before the test. Do not eat, drink, or smoke for two hours before the test. Unless instructed otherwise by their physicians, patients should continue to take their medications. Patients who have used Viagra (sildenafil citrate), Cialis (tadalafil), Levitra (vardenafil) or other erectile dysfunction (ED) medication within 24 hours before their test should tell the technician. It may affect the safety of the test. Wear comfortable walking shoes and clothing for the test.

    Are there any risks or side effects from this study that I should know about?

    An echocardiogram is not harmful in any way, but patients might feel slight discomfort from the pressure of the probe. A stress echocardiogram is not painful, but it is physically demanding. Most patients experience some fatigue. There is a very small risk of complications (heart attack, irregular heart rhythm). Everything is done to prevent this from happening. Medical staff and emergency equipment are on hand to assist in an emergency.

    Will I be able to Drive after the Test?

    Yes.