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Echocardiogram for Heart Failure: Care Instructions

Person getting an echocardiogram


An echocardiogram, also called an "echo," is a test to check for heart failure. Heart failure means that your heart can't pump as much blood as your body needs. During an echo, your doctor can check how much blood your heart is pumping during each heartbeat. This is called an ejection fraction.

An echo can also show if your heart is enlarged and if your heart valves are working as they should.

During an echo, you lie on a table. A hand-held device called a transducer is moved across your chest. The device sends sound waves that echo off your heart. They create an image of your heart beating. You may be asked to breathe slowly or hold your breath.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

You don't need to do anything to prepare. It may help to wear comfortable clothing that you can easily take off.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 if you have symptoms of sudden heart failure such as:

  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You cough up pink, foamy mucus.
  • You have a new irregular or rapid heartbeat.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or increased shortness of breath.
  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have sudden weight gain, such as 1 to 1.3 kilograms (2 to 3 pounds) in a day or 2.3 kilograms (5 pounds) in a week. (Your doctor may suggest a different range of weight gain.)
  • You have increased swelling in your legs, ankles, or feet.
  • You are suddenly so tired or weak that you cannot do your usual activities.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if you develop new symptoms.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.