An echocardiogram, or ‘echo’, uses ultrasound to show a picture of the heart at work. It is a very safe test – it is also used to examine babies in the womb, and the ultrasound waves cannot be felt.
An echo is used to look for abnormalities in your heart or the way it is working. The echo can also give a rough estimate of:
Because of this, an echo is often the first test that picks up pulmonary hypertension (PH). However, because an echo only gives rough estimates, other tests are needed to confirm if someone has PH or not.
An echo is done with you lying on your left-hand side. A trained technician then passes a device that looks like a microphone – called a transducer – over your chest area at various angles. To help the procedure, a jelly-like substance is rubbed onto the tip of the transducer. The echo can be videoed or images recorded onto photographic paper. The whole test takes about 15–30 minutes.
Watch a video of an echo, taken from the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA UK) DVDUnderstanding Pulmonary Hypertension – a guide to diagnosis and treatment, here.