What is an echocardiogram?An echocardiogram is an ultrasound scan of the heart. It is sometimes called an ‘ECHO’. Ultrasound is a very high-frequency sound that you cannot hear, but it can be emitted and detected by special machines. The scan can give accurate pictures of the heart muscle, the heart chambers, and structures within the heart such as the valves. The machine is similar to that used for scanning pregnant ladies.
Why is an echocardiogram done?
An echocardiogram provides information about the structure and function of the heart. It shows problems such as holes, leaking or narrow heart valves and disease of the heart muscle itself as well as fluid that may have collected around the heart.
What happens during the test?
The child needs to be undressed above the waist and lie on the couch. Teenage girls can cover themselves throughout with a sheet and should ideally wear a sports bra. (Dr Naqvi is a lady doctor and no male doctors or techs will be present during the scan). Parents usually sit next to their child during the echo. Dr Naqvi says “It is a good idea to bring a tablet or mobile phone so children can watch a favourite show or song during the test. Frequent favourites are Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol for toddlers, Moana and Minecraft for older children and music videos for teenagers.”
The lights in the room will be dimmed like in the cinema. This makes the pictures on the screen easier to see.
A scanning probe is placed on the child’s chest and upper abdomen (tummy). A special ultrasound gel is put on your child’s chest and tummy. Ultrasound waves are sent from the probe towards the heart and then echo (‘bounce back’) to the machine creating a moving black and white picture of the heart. The monitor shows colours which represent blood flow.
How long does it take?
About 15-30 minutes. Your child may be asked to lie on to their left side to help obtain clearer images.
Does it hurt?
- No. The test is painless. Your child will feel gentle pressure of the probe touching them
- Bring a tablet or mobile phone to help your child stay still.
- Bring a dummy for your baby if they usually have one.
- Bring a bottle for your baby.
- Bring snacks for older children e.g.a biscuit
- You may hear a pulsing noise a “whoosh” which is the machine recording the blood flowing through your child’s heart. Children often enjoy this part of the test.
- Your child may be asked to breathe in a certain way or to roll onto their left side.