Getting a heart ultrasound: What it is and what to expect

A heart ultrasound, or echocardiogram (“echo”), is a diagnostic exam that uses sound waves to take live pictures of your heart.

Your doctor will use this exam to assess your heart’s structure and function, including:

  • The size, shape, and thickness of your heart
  • If your heart valves are working properly
  • Your heart’s pumping strength
  • And more

Echocardiograms are safe, painless, and non-invasive.

The process


You will be instructed to undress from the waist up and given a paper gown to wear.


If your exam is in a doctor’s office, you will lie down on an exam table. If your exam is in your home, you will lie down on your couch or bed.


A small amount of ultrasound gel will be applied to three areas of your chest.


A healthcare professional will use an ultrasound probe to capture images of your heart. The exam takes about 20 minutes to perform. You may be asked to breathe in or out at times to help the scanner get the best possible images.

After the exam

Images of your heart will be sent to a cardiologist to review.

Your doctor will receive the results of your exam in approximately 3 days.

Someone from your care team will reach out to you for follow-up.


Reach out directly to your healthcare provider.