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The Echocardiogram (ECHO)

We use this test in a range of heart conditions. It is commonly done when a patient is referred with a heart murmur. This is a noise heard when a doctor listens to the heart with a stethascope. In many cases the murmur is not due to any major problem with the heart but in others it may be a sign of problems with the heart muscle or valves. An ECHO safe; there is no special preparation and no x-rays are used. You can return to normal activities immediately after the test. An ECHO typically takes between 20 – 30 minutes. During the test you lie on a couch. A special microphone is placed on the chest wall and the equipment builds up a “radar” type picture of the heart muscle and valves. It is similar to the scans that are done in pregnant women. The ECHO scan shows the structure of the various chambers of the heart in detail and detects whether there is any significant weakness or thickening of the heart muscle. It also studies the heart valves to see if there is any narrowing or leak to affect the normal flow of blood through the heart.  Unfortunately ultrasound machines are unable to visualise the coronary (heart) arteries.