Transthoracic Echocardiogram (Echo or TTE)

An Echo is a non-invasive imaging technique that enables your cardiologist to visualize how your heart pumps. It makes use of sound waves to produce moving images of your heart while it pumps blood around your body.

Transthoracic echocardiogram procedure

Before the test, the cardiac sonographer will spread gel and apply sticky patches (electrodes) on your chest wall. The sonographer will then apply a device (known as a transducer) on the gel, aiming an ultrasound beam against your heart at different angles in order to obtain a collective set of moving images of your heart produced by the computer. The moving images will be displayed on the monitor which you can see “live”.

Why do I need an Echo test?

An Echo can give vital information on many aspects of the condition of your heart:

  • It can determine the pumping strength of your heart and reveal any damages to your heart.
  • It can determine the size of your heart and can give information on the causes if your heart is abnormally enlarged.
  • It can give information on your heart valves and determine if they are functioning properly.
  • It can give information on any potential heart defects, any holes and abnormal connections in your heart

What can I expect during the test?

  • The echo will be performed by a very experienced cardiac sonographer, and occasionally by your cardiologist if certain images are needed.
  • You will be asked to undress from the waist up, lie on the examining couch on your side (typically on your left).
  • Transducer gel and sticky patches (electrodes) will be applied on your chest.
  • During the investigation, the lights will be dimmed, and your cardiac sonographer will press the transducer against your chest to obtain the relevant images.
  • The transducer may be pressed firmly against your chest wall (which may be uncomfortable at times), and you may be asked to take and hold your breaths in order for your sonographer to obtain the best images.
  • The whole test takes approximately 20-30mins, depending on the complexity of your condition.
  • After the completion of the echo, the gel will be wiped off and electrodes removed from your chest wall.

Are they any risks involved in this investigation?

A standard transthoracic echocardiogram does not carry any known risks.