How to Prepare for an Echocardiogram

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An echocardiogram provides doctors with information on how your heart is functioning.
An echocardiogram provides doctors with information on how your heart is functioning. (Image: heart beat medical image by Nicemonkey from Fotolia.com)

If you display signs and symptoms of heart problems, your doctor might recommend an echocardiogram. The test, which uses ultrasound technology to produce pictures of the heart to see how well it is working, is a common procedure that requires little preparation, according to MayoClinic.com.

Things You'll Need

  • Comfortable clothing
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Running shoes
  • A ride home

Follow your doctor’s instructions on when you can eat and drink before the test. There are no food or drinking restrictions for a standard electrocardiogram. However, you should not eat or drink at least three hours before a stress echocardiogram and at least six hours before a transesophageal echocardiogram. You can drink water up to two hours before a transesophageal echocardiogram.

Take your medication at the usual time. If you are having a transesophageal echocardiogram, take your medication with a sip of water. If you have diabetes and are scheduled for this test, talk to your doctor about when you should take your medication. If you take Viagra, Cialis or Levitra and are having a stress test, talk to your doctor.

Dress comfortably. If you are having a stress echocardiogram, you will be exercising on a treadmill or stationary bicycle and should wear comfortable running shoes.

Leave plenty of time. It takes about an hour for a standard echocardiogram test or 90 minutes if you are having a transesophageal echocardiogram.

Advise your doctor of any allergies to medication. Although rare, an allergic reaction to dyes or sedatives used in some electrocardiograms is possible.

Make arrangements for a ride from your appointment. Although this is not necessary for a standard echocardiogram, if you are having a transesophageal echocardiogram, this is a must. During the procedure, a sedative is provided so that the doctor can insert a scope down your throat to get a better image of the heart. The sedative can cause drowsiness and dizziness, the Cleveland Clinic notes.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wait one hour after a transesophageal echocardiogram before eating or drinking if you have a sore throat, the Cleveland Clinic advises.
  • You might experience an irregular heartbeat during a stress echocardiogram, MayoClinic.com says. This is from the exercise or medication and is rare.

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