What is an Echocardiogram?

Echocardiogram, often referred to as Cardiac Echo or simply an Echo is a sonogram or ultrasound of the heart.  It uses sound waves to create images of the heart.  It allows us to look for structural (how the heart is built) or functional (how the heart squeezes or relaxes) problems.  

Why might my child need an Echocardiogram?

The most common reason a child is has an Echo is because of a murmur (an extra sound created by the heart).  We are looking to see if this sound is due to something abnormal about the structure of your child's heart or if it just one of the normal murmurs of childhood.  

An abnormal EKG (electrocardiogram or ECG) can be found often in children and may suggest that the heart may have an abnormality.  An Echo can help us to confirm this.  

Symptoms such as chest pain, palpitations, dizziness or fainting often require an Echo to rule-out a structural or functional problem that may be the cause.  

We may also be looking for specific findings based on your family members having certain heart conditions or if your child has a genetic problem that is associated with heart issues.  

How should I prepare my child for an Echo?

Young children may be scared by the ultrasound since they aren't familiar with it.  Before coming it may help to explain what the test will be like.  If they have seen a sonogram before that may help them understand.  You can also "practice" at home by rubbing lotion on their chest or stomach and placing a phone or remote against those areas to "take pictures".

We ask for as much help as you can offer to keep your child calm and relaxed.  This is not a painful exam we often make sure they know there are "No Ouchies" and at our office we do NOT give shots.  Letting your child know this in advance can help keep them calm.  

We will ask your child to lay flat on the exam bed as we apply gel to the stomach, chest, and under the chin.  We also apply 3 stickers to monitor their heart beat during the study.  If your child is uncomfortable we may ask you to lay on the table with them or let them lay in your lap.  

To help keep your child relaxed we will often play a movie but if they have a favorite video or toy please feel free to bring that to keep them distracted.  For infants a pacifier or bottle is very helpful.  

For our older patient that while we do provide some covering since they will be somewhat exposed.  We advise that to limit the family members in the room during the study for the child's privacy.  However anyone under the age of 18 years will need at least one parent/guardian in the room during the study. 

We know parents / guardians may want to take pictures of the echocardiogram as it is being performed.  However, HIPPA rules do NOT allow for photographs of a patient's study in order to protect patient privacy.  We cannot allow exceptions for this rule and appreciate your understanding.

How long does the test take / when should I expect results?

Usually the test is completed in 30 minutes if your child can be calm and cooperative.  

It is very tempting to ask the sonographers performing the test what they think about the pictures.  However we have instructed our sonographers NOT to provide results.  Our sonographers are incredibly skilled, but the Pediatric Cardiologist has received the advanced training needed to make a complete assesement of your child.  The Cardiologist will need to review the entire, completed study and put this into the context of your child's condition to provide you an explanation.  This way you receive one explanation of your results.  

Tests results are given during the same visit for our patients.