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Get fast access to an echocardiogram, a painless test that uses sound waves to capture pictures of the inside of your heart

Female with chest pain needs an echocardiogram ultrasound scan
An echocardiogram, also referred to as an "echo", is a painless scan that looks inside your heart and its surrounding blood vessels. It can examine your heart's structure and check how it is working.

It is a type of ultrasound, which means it is performed using a small probe that emits high-frequency soundwaves. These create echoes, which bounce off parts of your body. These echoes are detected by the probe and turned into a moving image displayed on a monitor as the scan is being performed.

Although it has a similar sounding name, an echocardiogram is not the same as an electrocardiogram (ECG), which is a test used to monitor your heart's rhythm and electrical activity using electrodes. An echocardiogram looks at the structure and functioning of your heart, using an ultrasound. 

Who can perform an echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram can be performed by a consultant cardiologist, a cardiac physiologist, a trained sonographer, or even your GP. The results of an echocardiogram are typically analysed by a cardiac physiologist and confirmed by your consultant cardiologist, who will find the best treatment option for your heart problem. 

Your echocardiogram with Circle Health Group

At Circle Health Group, we have a large network of multidisciplinary healthcare professionals who can perform all types of echocardiograms to diagnose your heart condition and monitor your heart health. To find out more, you can call a member of our advisory team on 0141 300 5009, or book an initial consultation with a consultant online.

The cost of an echocardiogram will depend on which type you are having, as well as factors including where you are having the test and why. For example:

The cost of a transthoracic echocardiogram with a consultant starts from £358*

The cost of a stress echocardiogram starts from £450*

The cost of a stress echocardiogram with contrast starts from £550*

It is important to note that the price of an echocardiogram will differ depending on which hospital you have the test at. 

The prices listed above are the cost of an individual echocardiogram. If the test shows you need treatment for a heart condition, we usually offer a fixed-price package for said treatment. Your echocardiogram will be charged separately from this treatment.

We will let you know at the time exactly how much the test will cost and when you’ll need to pay.

If you have private health insurance, these tests will usually be covered by your policy. We work with all major providers of private medical insurance.

*This is just a guide price for patients who are paying for their own treatment. The actual cost will be confirmed to you before you have the test.

An echocardiogram can help diagnose and monitor several heart conditions by checking the structure of your heart and how blood flows through its surrounding blood vessels. The test can help detect:

A heart attack
When the blood supply to your heart is blocked.

Heart failure
When your heart fails to pump enough blood around your body at the right pressure.

When you have an infection in the lining of your heart, which damages your heart valves and can lead to heart failure.

Congenital heart disease
This is an umbrella term to describe a range of causes that affect the way your heart functions.

Blood clots
These occur when certain gel-like collections of blood build up in your veins or arteries, causing blockages to your blood flow. 

These conditions come with varying symptoms. You might be offered an echocardiogram if you experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • Chest tightness
  • A racing heartbeat
  • A slow heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Swelling in your legs

There are several types of echocardiograms, each carried out using a different technique. These are:

A transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE)

This is the most commonly performed echocardiogram. During a TTE, you will be asked to lie down on a hospital bed and remove the upper half of your clothing. Your consultant or physiologist will attach several sticky sensors (known as electrodes) to your chest. These are connected to a machine that monitors your heart rhythm while the test is being performed. 

Your healthcare professional will apply a lubricating gel to your chest or directly to the ultrasound probe. You will position yourself on your left side and the probe will be moved across your chest. The monitor will display images of the inside of your heart and its surrounding blood vessels. You will not hear the sound waves produced by the probe, but you might hear a soft swishing noise during the scan. This is the sound of the blood flowing through your heart and being detected by the probe.

The test will usually take between 30 and 60 minutes.

A stress echocardiogram

A stress echocardiogram is performed in a similar way to a TTE (through the use of electrodes attached to your chest). The difference is that it's done during or just after a period of exercise at varying intensity levels. You will be asked to exercise on a treadmill or exercise bike while the test is being performed. The intensity of this exercise routine will vary as the images of your heart are shared on the monitor connected to the electrodes. If you cannot exercise for a stress test due to mobility issues, you might be offered a medication that makes your heart work harder for a short period of time instead. This is called dobutamine. Speak with your consultant about whether this is the right option for you. 

Transoesophageal echocardiogram (TOE)

During this test, you will be asked to lie down on a hospital bed. A local numbing spray (anaesthetic) will be applied to the back of your throat and a probe will be passed down your oesophagus and sometimes into your stomach. You might be offered a sedative for this procedure, which is a medication that calms you down and helps ease any discomfort during a procedure.

You will be asked to swallow as the probe is inserted in your throat to move it down in your stomach. The test is not painful, but it might cause some discomfort. The sedative will help relieve this. The probe is connected to a monitor that displays images of the inside of your heart as the test is being performed. These pictures are continuously updated to show the movement of your heart. You can read more about how to prepare for TOE below.

A contrast echocardiogram

During a contrast echocardiogram, a harmless substance called a contrast agent will be injected into your bloodstream before the echocardiogram is carried out. This shows up clearly during the scan, helping build a clearer image of your heart. 

The type of echocardiogram you have will depend on your symptoms and how detailed the images need to be to diagnose or monitor your condition. If your doctor or cardiac physiologist is unable to find the cause of your symptoms through a TTE, they might use a contrast agent to provide clearer image of certain parts of your heart, or they might arrange for you to have TOE, which offers a more detailed look inside your heart from the inside itself.

There is not a huge amount of preparation needed for an echocardiogram, because it is relatively fast test performed as a day-case procedure (this means you do not have to stay overnight in hospital after it).

A transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE)

No preparation as such is needed for this test. You will need to remove clothing from the upper half of your body, and any accessories that might interfere with the electrode activity before the test begins. You will also need to be lying on a bed for the test to be carried out. 

A stress echocardiogram

No preparation as such is needed for this procedure. You will be shown how to use the exercise equipment safely and properly before the test. You will need to come to your appointment wearing appropriate fitness clothing, for example comfortable running shoes. 

A transoesophageal echocardiogram (TOE)

You will be asked to follow fasting instructions for this test, which involves not eating or drinking for six hours before you come to hospital. You should arrange for someone to collect you from hospital after the test, because you won't be able to drive for 24 hours after having a sedative. You will also be asked to remove any dentures or dental plates from your mouth before the probe is passed down your throat. Your consultant will ensure you understand this preparation process before having the test.

Contrast echocardiogram

Having a contrast echocardiogram requires you to have an injection. You can't do much to prepare for an injection, but your doctor or relevant healthcare professional will ensure you feel relaxed and ready to have the injection before they administer it.

There is no recovery timeline as such for echocardiograms.

Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE)

There is no recovery from this test. You might have some redness and discomfort on your chest where the electrodes were attached (similar to the feeling after a plaster has been removed). This will resolve naturally.

A stress echocardiogram

There is no recovery from this test, but you might have some redness and discomfort on your chest from the electrodes as you might with a TTE. This will resolve naturally. 

Transoesophageal echocardiogram (TOE)

If you have had a sedative for this test, you might feel sleepy and out of sorts for around 24 hours after the echocardiogram. You should not drink alcohol or operate heavy machinery during this time, while the sedative wears off. You should be able to return to your normal everyday activities the day after the test, when this feeling has resided. You might also have a sore throat after the test, caused by the probe being inserted into your mouth. This should pass quickly and can be managed with painkillers. You will be back feeling like yourself again within two or three days after the test.

Contrast echocardiogram

Having a contrast echocardiogram does not change your recovery timeline, regardless of which echocardiogram you have it with. 

In most cases, you will receive your results on the day of your test.

Your physiologist will need around an hour to analyse your results after your test. Your consultant will confirm their analysis and your diagnosis. You will meet with your consultant after the test to discuss your results and potential treatment plan in detail.

In some cases, you might need to wait a day or two before getting your results, but this depends on your individual circumstances. Your consultant will ensure you know how long you will have to wait before getting your results. 

There are no major risks associated with having an echocardiogram.

Some people can have an allergic reaction to the sedative used during a TOE, or the contrast used during an echocardiogram with a contrast agent. This is rare, but you will have the opportunity to let your doctor know if you are prone to allergies or have experienced an allergic reaction to a sedative or contrast dye before. 

Your doctor will ensure you know everything you need to know about the potential risks of having an echocardiogram before you have it, so you can feel prepared for the test and reassured that complications are rare. 

When you choose to go private with Circle Health Group, you can expect:

  • Flexible appointment times and locations to fit your routine
  • The freedom to choose which hospital and consultant suit your needs
  • Personalised, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Comfortable and safe private facilities maintained by expert multidisciplinary teams
  • Support by the same compassionate clinical team from beginning to end
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included
  • Flexible payment options to help you spread the cost of your care

If you would like to learn more about having an echocardiogram, book your appointment online today or call a member of our team directly on 0141 300 5009.

Content reviewed by Circle in-house team in July 2022. Next review due July 2025.

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