An echocardiogram is a graphic outline of the heart's movement. During this test, high-frequency sound waves, called ultrasound, provide pictures of the heart's valves and chambers. This allows the technician, called a sonographer, to evaluate the pumping action of the heart. Your doctor may perform an echocardiogram to assess the overall function of your heart, determine the presence of many types of heart disease, follow the progress of heart valve disease over time, or to evaluate the effectiveness of medical or surgical treatments.

Before the test, you will be instructed to eat and drink as you normally would on the day of the test. Take all of your medications at the usual times, as prescribed by your doctor.

During the test, you will be given a hospital gown to wear. You will be asked to remove your clothing from the waist up. A cardiac sonographer will place three electrodes on your chest. The electrodes are attacked to an electrocardiograph monitor (ECG or EKG) that charts your heart's electrical activity. The sonographer will ask you to lie on your left side on an exam table. He or she will place a wand (called a sound-wave transducer) on several areas of your chest. Sounds are part of the Doppler signal. You may or may not hear the sounds during the test. You may be asked to change positions several times during the exam in order for the sonographer to take pictures of different areas of your heart. You should feel no major discomfort during the test. You may feel coolness from the gel on the transducer and a slight pressure of the transducer on your chest. The test will take about 40 minutes.

On the day of the test, do not eat or drink anything except water for four hours before the test. You will be instructed not to take certain heart medications on the day of the test such as beta-blockers.