Echocardiogram for Heart Failure: Care Instructions

Skip to the navigation

Your Care Instructions

Person getting an echocardiogram

An echocardiogram, also called an "echo," is a very useful 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 technician moves a handheld device called a transducer across your chest. The device sends sound waves that echo off your heart. They create an image of your heart beating. The technician may ask you to breathe slowly or hold your breath.

An echo takes about 30 to 60 minutes.

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 call line 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?

Preparing for the test

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

After the test

  • After an echo, you can do your normal activities. If you feel like it, you can drive home.

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 call 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 1.3 kilograms or more in 2 to 3 days.
  • 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 call line if you develop new symptoms.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter S567 in the search box to learn more about "Echocardiogram for Heart Failure: Care Instructions."