A cardiac ultrasound, or echocardiogram, allows the evaluation of the anatomy and the function of the heart.

Just like pregnant women

It is the same type of test used to examine a baby in a pregnant woman.  In the case of a cardiac ultrasound, the heart is organ of interest.



The lungs and the bones hide the heart during an ultrasound

The heart is a solid organ inside the chest, surrounded by air (the lungs) and bones (the ribs).  These two internal structures do not allow the ultrasounds to penetrate to the heart.  

Therefore, a limited number of anatomic windows (or specific places on the chest) are used to place the probe, so the heart can be visualized without interference from the lungs or the bones.


Two methods

Two different methods can be used to perform an echocardiogram.



The first method consists of placing the probe on the chest.  The ultrasounds will penetrate through the thorax, hence the term “cardiac transthoracic ultrasound”.



The transesophageal technique implies that the probe passes through the esophagus, the internal part of the body that connects the mouth to the stomach.  By doing so, the lungs and bones do not interfere with visualization. As it's done when a gastroscopy is performed, the probe is “swallowed” by the sedated patient.


The Transthoracic echocardiogram


Make an appointment

An appointment is necessary for this exam.


Simple exam, no preparation needed

No special preparation is necessary for a transthoracic echocardiogram. It is therefore not necessary to fast or cease your medication prior to the exam. The test lasts approximately 30 minutes.


Upon your arrival

Upon your arrival, you will remove your upper-body clothing and to put on a hospital gown.  The purposely dimly lit examination room makes it easier to see the images.

A medical imaging technician or a heart specialist completes the exam and the results are transmitted to the referring physician.


To begin with

The technician or specialist installs three probes, or electronical sensors, on your thorax that allow the recording of your heart’s electrical activity.



You will lie on your back and turn on your left side.  The technician or heart specialist will be either on your left or on your right.







A gel rubbed on your thorax allows the ultrasounds to penetrate your skin effectively.

Four places to install the probes

Four different “windows” or specific places on the thorax allow the images to be seen and recorded: the left parasternal (between the third and fourth ribs), the apical (below the left breast), the chest indrawing (beneath the breastone) and the suprasternal (at the base of the neck).


Lots of information

The test allows the technician or heart specialist to measure your heart dimensions and to evaluate the contraction of your cardiac muscle, the four valves and the larger vessels connected to your heart.

Do the valves open correctly? Is there a leakage?

Normally, a valve is hermetic when it is closed.  We cannot see the coronary arteries because they are too small.

What does it look like?


The four chambers of the heart

Mitral valve from above

Four chambers from the stomac area 

Aortique valve from above 


We cannot see the caronary arteries, they are too small.


Without danger and usually painless

The transthoracic echocardiogram is completely safe and painless.  Rarely, certain patients may feel a pressure caused by the probe between the ribs.


Important indications

The echocardiogram provides a multitude of precious information that will help your doctor to confirm or to rule out a diagnostic or simply to follow-up on existing condition.

Once the exam is completed, you will be handed a small towel to wipe the gel from your chest.  You may then leave.


You may ask for an additional copy of thereport for another doctor

It is possible to ask that a copy of your results be sent to another doctor.  You simply must give the doctor’s name and contact information to the personnel before or after your exam.






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