Preparing for your transthoracic echocardiogram

A transthoracic echocardiogram, often referred to simply as an echocardiogram, is a noninvasive test that uses sound waves to record a two-dimensional image of a beating heart. This image reveals important information about the heart's wall motion, valve function, and direction and velocity of blood flow through the valves of the heart.

What to expect:

No special preparation is needed for a transthoracic echocardiogram. You will be asked to remove clothing from the upper half of the body, and you will be given a drape for privacy during the test.

When the test begins, you will be asked to lie down on your back on an examination table. A colorless gel is applied to your chest, and the technologist will begin to glide a thick, handheld wand over your chest. The wand transmits sound waves which translate into an image of your heart. The technologist may ask you to move from your back to your side during the exam to capture images of the heart from several viewpoints. You may also be asked to breathe slowly or hold your breath for short periods during the exam. This can help capture a higher-quality image.

Your technologist will be able to view the images as they are being captured, and they will also be recorded for review by your doctor.