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  • An echocardiogram is a test that uses sound waves and a computer to look at your child’s heart. It is used to help diagnose heart problems.
  • Talk to your child’s healthcare provider about what the test results mean and ask any questions you have.


What is an echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram is a test that uses sound waves (ultrasound) and a computer to look at your child’s heart. The pictures created during the test show your child's heart as it is beating, like a movie instead of a snapshot.

An echocardiogram may be done in two ways:

  • A transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE) is done by moving a probe around on the surface of your child’s chest. A gel is put on the skin of your child’s chest to help transmit the ultrasound waves.
  • A transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) is done with a tiny probe called a transducer attached to a flexible lighted tube and carefully placed through your child’s mouth into the esophagus and down behind your child’s heart. The esophagus is the tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach. Your child will be given sedation or a numbing medicine to keep from feeling pain during the procedure and help with gagging.

The probe and computer use sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart valves, chambers, blood vessels, and the heart muscle itself. Special equipment may be used to create a three-dimensional (3D) report to give your child’s healthcare provider even more information.

When is it used?

An echocardiogram is used to check the size, thickness, and movement of the heart, and how well it is working. It may be done to check:

  • If the heart valves are opening and closing well, or if a valve is stiff or allowing blood to leak past it
  • How well a replacement valve is working
  • If heart problems present at birth, such as a hole in the heart wall, are worse
  • How well the heart is pumping blood to the body
  • If blood clots have formed in the heart
  • If a heart attack has caused heart muscle damage
  • For tumors or growths inside the heart
  • For infection inside or around the outside of the heart
  • The size of the heart chambers
  • The heart before inserting a pacemaker or other implantable device or to check how a device is working
  • How the heart is working before a surgery that involves the heart or nearby blood vessels

This test may also be used to check how well treatment is working, such as taking medicine to dissolve blood clots or to help the heart pump better.

How do I prepare my child for this test?

  • Your child may or may not need to take regular medicines the day of the procedure. Tell your healthcare provider about all medicines and supplements your child takes. Ask your provider if your child needs to avoid taking any medicine or supplements before the procedure.
  • Your child’s healthcare provider will tell you when your child should stop eating and drinking before the surgery. This helps to keep your child from vomiting during the procedure.
  • Tell your child’s healthcare provider if your child has any food, medicine, or other allergies such as latex.
  • In some cases, the technologist may inject contrast dye through an IV to show your child’s heart more clearly. Ask your healthcare provider if you have questions about the contrast dye.
  • Follow any other instructions your healthcare provider gives you.
  • Ask any questions you have before the procedure. You should understand what your child’s healthcare provider is going to do. You have the right to make decisions about your child’s healthcare and to give permission for any tests or procedures.

What happens after the test?

Ask your healthcare provider:

  • How and when you will get your child’s test results
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them

Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

What are the risks of this test?

There are few risks from this test:

  • Rarely, your child may have an allergic reaction to medicines used during the procedure.
  • If a sedative was given, your child may have problems with the medicine.

Ask your healthcare provider how these risks apply to your child. Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.

Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2022.1 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2022-01-03
Last reviewed: 2021-08-19
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2022 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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