Patient Information Guide for Contrast-Enhanced Echocardiogram
What is it?
An echocardiogram is a test to evaluate the heart size, wall thickness and motion, as well as the structure and function of the heart valves.
The echocardiogram machine uses ultrasound waves to produce images of the heart and does not use radioactivity.
Due to some limitations in echocardiography, the images of your heart may not be as clear as needed and you may require an injection of a contrast agent. The contrast-enhanced imaging with the agent Definity is necessary to address specific questions and help the cardiologist interpret your study. It is not a dye, it is different from x-ray contrast agents and does not contain iodine.
How should I prepare for it?
Bring a list of all present medications.
Do not apply any body lotion or oil to your skin before the appointment, as this makes it difficult to obtain high-quality images.
What will happen during the test?
Prior to the test, you will be asked to sign a consent form. Please read it carefully and if you have any questions, ask the technologist. He or she will explain the entire procedure before it begins.
After you have signed the consent form, you will be asked to remove your clothing from the waist up and given a gown to wear.
Three electrode pads will be placed on your chest and shoulders to monitor your heartbeat.
You will be asked to lie down on an examination table on your left side. In order to obtain clearer pictures, a water-based gel will be applied to your chest. The gel may feel cool but will not harm your skin and will be removed at the end of the test.
The technologist will hold a transducer on your chest to obtain many images from different views of the heart. You may or may not hear a “whoosh” sound while the pictures are being taken.
The transducer must be pressed firmly against your chest by the technologist, in order to obtain better quality images and this pressure may be uncomfortable, especially over your ribs.
You may be asked to change your position or hold your breath at times during the test in order to take pictures of different areas of your heart.
A technologist will setup an IV line for the contrast administration. Additional enhanced images will be recorded.
How long will the test last?
The test lasts approximately 40 to 60 minutes depending on the number of images to be obtained.
Will I experience any discomfort?
You should feel no major discomfort during the test. However, in certain instances, the transducer must be held very firmly by the technologist against your chest and this pressure can be uncomfortable, especially over your ribs.
Should I discontinue my medications?
Do not discontinue your usual medications unless instructed to do so by your physician.
What is the risk of the test?
There are no known harmful effects from diagnostic cardiac ultrasound.
Common side effects of the contrast administration include transient lower back discomfort or flushing that resolve within minutes. Rarely, a more serious reaction may occur (1 out of 10,000 injections). The healthcare staff working are trained and equipped to assist you promptly should any problem occur.
How do I get the results?
The test will be read and reported by a cardiologist, and that written report will be sent to your physician.
Your physician will then explain the test results to you.
The technologist is not able to provide you with test results.