Transthoracic Echocardiogram

Posted October 2, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 2 min read

A transthoracic echo is the type most people think of when they hear heart echo. It’s also the type most often used. It’s performed outside your body.

Preparing for a Transthoracic Echo

There’s not much you need to do to prepare for this type of echo. In general:

  • You don’t need to avoid eating or drinking before a transthoracic echo.

  • Take your medications as you usually do.

  • Wear anything you’d like.

  • Leave anything valuable at home.

  • You’ll be given a storage locker to use during the test.

What to expect during a Transthoracic Echo

A transthoracic echo includes the following steps:

  • You’ll be asked to remove your clothing from the waist up. You’ll put on a hospital gown.

  • Your sonographer will place several electrodes on your chest. These are small, flat, sticky patches.

  • The electrodes are attached to an electrocardiograph (EKG) monitor.

  • The EKG records your heart’s electrical activity during the test.

  • You’ll lie down on an exam table.

  • Your sonographer will ask you to lie on your left side if possible.

  • Your sonographer will place a sound-wave transducer (wand) on several areas of your chest.

  • There’s a small amount of gel on the end of the wand, which won’t harm your skin.

  • This gel helps produce clearer pictures.

  • You may hear swishing sounds throughout the test which is normal, it means you’re hearing blood flowing through your heart as the wand picks up the sound.

  • Throughout the test, your sonographer may ask you to hold your breath for several seconds at a time.

  • You may also need to move into a different position.

  • You should feel no major discomfort during the test.

  • You may feel a coolness on your skin from the gel on the wand.

  • You may also feel a slight pressure of the wand against your chest.

How is a Transesophageal Echocardiogram done?

  • A transesophageal echo takes pictures from inside your chest, rather than from the outside.

  • It can show your heart and valves in greater detail than a transthoracic echo.

  • That’s because your body’s bones and tissues aren’t in between the transducer and your heart.

  • For this test, the sonographer guides a small transducer down your throat and esophagus (food tube) using a long, flexible tube.

  • This minimally invasive procedure may cause mild, temporary discomfort.

  • But it has a low risk of serious problems.

This type of echo may be used:

  • When your provider needs a detailed look at your aorta or the back of your heart (especially your left atrium or left ventricle).

  • To check for blood clots.

  • To evaluate your mitral valve or aortic valve.

  • If you have obesity or lung disorders.

  • If a transthoracic echo isn’t possible for various other reasons.

lab-tests lab-investigations investigations transthoracic-echocardiogram

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