An echocardiogram is a test offered at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) which allows the doctor to see how your heart is working. It creates an image of the heart in motion which can be used to check that your heart is working properly. 

It's usually used if the doctor thinks that there may be a problem with the valves or the heart’s ability to pump. The echocardiogram uses sound waves of a very high frequency (ultrasound) and this is why you can't hear the sound. These sound waves are used to create an image of the heart on a screen. 

What happens

You'll be allowed to eat and drink as usual before this test as it won't affect the results. You'll be asked to take off your top and the technician or doctor will put a small amount of gel on your chest (this is to help the microphone slide around easily so that the sound waves can be recorded properly).

You may have discs placed on your chest also so that an electrocardiogram can be carried out at the same time. The technician will then run the microphone over your chest. You may be asked to lie on your side for some of it.

Usually this test will be carried out while you're resting, but your doctor may ask for images to be taken at rest and while on an exercise bike or treadmill. This is known as a stress echocardiogram.

How long it takes

Most echocardiograms take less than an hour to complete.

Does it hurt?

The echocardiograms are painless and quick.


Your doctor will review the images and write a report. This might take a few days.

Compiled by:
Great Ormond Street Hospital
Last review date:
February 2012