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An echocardiogram (echo) is a diagnostic test used to obtain pictures of your heart to help determine your heart function and to evaluate your heart valves. An echocardiogram is a noninvasive procedure that is performed in a physician’s office or clinical setting. It is also known as a transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE).

Ohio State’s Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital has a cutting-edge echocardiography team with internationally known researchers in the field. Our three-dimensional heart imaging technology provides detailed information to your physician about how your heart looks and works, as well as assessing your heart function and detecting valve abnormalities or diseases. This imaging technology is used in addition to the basic echo exam, and it also helps to optimize care for patients with specialized cardiac devices.

What Is an Echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram gives your physician information about how your heart functions, including data on the pumping function of the left ventricle (the main pumping chamber of the heart). Echocardiograms can also alert physicians about any heart conditions you have such as tumors, fatty deposits, enlargement of the heart and congestive heart failure, as well as the status of heart valves and the sack surrounding your heart (the pericardium). Since some heart conditions have no obvious symptoms, an echocardiogram is an important heart test. It can offer information about your heart’s function before a condition becomes severe.

An echocardiogram uses sound waves from a special probe, called a transducer, to form pictures of your heart on a screen. The picture is created when sound waves go through your skin then bounce back from the structures and tissues of your heart. You won’t be able to hear these sounds because they are at too high of a frequency. A computer analyzes the sound waves when they return to the transducer, offering physicians details of your heart’s function.

What To Expect During Your Echocardiogram

Preparing for Your Procedure

Check with your physician when scheduling your echocardiogram to ensure you do not need to abstain from food or drink prior to the test. Bring a list of current medications you are taking, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins and other supplements including herbs. You should wear comfortable clothing to your appointment and remove any jewelry prior to starting the test.

During Your Procedure

You will wear a hospital gown and lie on your side while the test is performed. Once the room is darkened, the medical technician will apply warm gel to your chest and place the transducer on the gel. As the technician moves the transducer around your chest you might feel some pressure. If the pressure becomes too uncomfortable, notify the technician.

Under some circumstances, an IV is necessary to administer an echo contrast agent or saline contrast.  The contrast agent helps optimize the study if the heart pictures are not clear, and the saline contrast looks for potential holes between the right and left sides of your heart.

After Your Procedure

There are no known adverse effects of the echocardiogram test. There are very rare instances when patients have an allergic reaction to an echo contrast agent. In most cases, there are no specific procedures to follow after an echocardiogram, although your doctor may give you instructions depending on your specific health conditions.


Ohio State’s Ross Heart Hospital

OSU Heart Center at Bellefontaine

OSU Heart & Vascular Center at Stoneridge (Dublin)

Heart & Vascular Center at OSU Carepoint Gahanna

OSU Heart Center at Marysville

OSU Heart Center at Martha Morehouse Medical Plaza

OSU Heart Center at University Hospital East


To schedule your appointment, please call 614-293-ROSS or 888-293-ROSS.