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 We Prepare for an Echocardiogram?

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

Your child should wear a shirt that can be easily taken off for the test. Older children will be given a gown. You also can bring along a toy, book, or video as a distraction.

What Happens During an Echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram is done in a darkened room, with your child lying down. Small metal stickers (electrodes) are placed on the chest. These measure the rhythm of the heart beating. Gel put on the chest helps sounds waves travel from the echocardiogram wand (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. 

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

Can I Stay With My Child During an Echocardiogram?

Parents can stay with their child during an echocardiogram. Help your child stay calm by reading books or watching a video.

How Long Does an Echocardiogram Take?

It usually takes 30 to 60 minutes to get the pictures needed. If your child is calm and lying still, it can help the test go quicker. 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.

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2019 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.

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