WellSpan Home

Health Library

Echocardiography in Children

What is echocardiography?

Echocardiography is an imaging test. It uses sound waves to make detailed pictures of the heart.

The test can be done in two ways.

  • Transthoracic echo (TTE). This method uses a hand-held wand called a transducer. The healthcare provider moves it across the chest over the area where the heart is. The transducer sends and receives sound waves that are changed into images.
  • Transesophageal (TEE) echo. The test may be done by passing a transducer down through the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube leading from the throat to the stomach. Because the esophagus sits right behind the heart, TEE provides better imaging detail than the transthoracic echo.
  • Intracardiac echocardiography (ICE). This type of echocardiography is done with probes as part of a cardiac catheterization and does not require general anesthesia as TEE sometimes does.
Most echocardiography is 2-D. Two views of the heart are used to create the images. Other types include:
  • Doppler. This shows blood flow through the heart.
  • Color Doppler. This shows color images to better see blood flow.
  • 3-D. This gives 3 views of the heart.
  • Stress echocardiography. This shows what the heart does under stress from medicine or exercise.

Why might my child need echocardiography?

Echocardiography is an important imaging test for heart problems in infants and children. It may help diagnose problems your child was born with (congenital). Or it may help diagnose a problem that has developed (acquired). Below are reasons for having echocardiography.

Congenital

  • Signs or symptoms that may mean a heart problem. These might be a bluish color of the skin (cyanosis) or a heart murmur.
  • Checking the heart because of other congenital problems
  • Family history of congenital heart disease
  • Other abnormal test results

Acquired

  • Infections or other conditions that may affect the heart
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeats

What are the risks of echocardiography?

Echocardiography does not have any risks. If you child needs relaxation medicine (sedation), there may be a small risk for problems. If your child is having sedation, talk with his or her provider.

How do I get my child ready for echocardiography?

  • Your child won’t need to do anything special before an echocardiogram.
  • If your child is old enough to understand, explain that he or she will have to lie still to have pictures taken.
  • He or she may have medicine to go to sleep for a transesophageal echo. It’s sometimes needed for transthoracic echo, especially for younger children.
  • Make sure your child knows that the procedure doesn’t cause pain.
  • Most of the time, you can stay with your child during the exam.
  • Your child may also be able to hold a toy or watch TV or a movie during the exam.
  • For any special instructions, talk with your child’s provider or the facility.

What happens during echocardiography?

The echo may be done in a cardiologist’s office, at a hospital, or at an imaging facility. It takes about 45 to 60 minutes for a transthoracic echo. A specially trained technician (cardiac sonographer) usually does the test. The steps are:

  • Your child will lie down on an exam table in a room with the lights dimmed.
  • The technician will put gel on your child's chest to help the transducer move.
  • The technician will put the transducer on the chest and move it around to get the heart images. Your child will feel slight pressure of the probe as it’s moved around the chest.
  • The images display on a computer screen.

Your child will need sedation if he or she is having a transesophageal echo. For this test, the transducer is passed into your child’s mouth, throat, and into the esophagus. A bite protector will be placed in your child's mouth. Vital signs including heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels will be monitored. Once your child is sedated enough, the TEE probe will be inserted into the esophagus. This test lasts about 15 minutes.

What happens after echocardiography?

Once the test is done, the technician wipes the gel from the chest. If your child had sedation, he or she is watched until awake. A pediatric cardiologist reviews the images at some point after the exam. Depending on the results of the echo, your child may need other tests or procedures. Some children have a sore throat for a day or 2 after a TEE procedure.

Next steps

Before you agree to the test or the procedure for your child make sure you know:

  • The name of the test or procedure
  • The reason your child is having the test or procedure
  • What results to expect and what they mean
  • The risks and benefits of the test or procedure
  • When and where your child is to have the test or procedure
  • Who will do the procedure and what that person’s qualifications are
  • What would happen if your child did not have the test or procedure
  • Any alternative tests or procedures to think about
  • When and how will you get the results
  • Who to call after the test or procedure if you have questions or your child has problems
  • How much will you have to pay for the test or procedure
Echocardiography in Children - WellSpan Health

Online Medical Reviewer: Bass, Pat F., III, MD, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Kang, Steven, MD
Last Review Date: 2016-06-01T00:00:00
Last Modified Date: 2016-06-13T00:00:00
Published Date: 2016-06-13T00:00:00
Last Review Date: 2007-03-30T00:00:00
© 2016 WellSpan Health. All Rights Reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

I would like to:

Are you sure you would like to cancel?

All information will be lost.

Yes No ×

About the provider search

This search will provide you with WellSpan Medical Group and Northern Lancaster County (Ephrata) Medical Group primary care physicians and specialists. If we don’t have a WellSpan Medical Group physician to meet your criteria, the search will expand to include community physicians who partner with WellSpan Medical Group physicians through the WellSpan Provider Network or provide care to patients on the Medical Staffs of WellSpan’s Hospitals.

×

Schedule Your Next Appointment Online with MyWellSpan

Use your MyWellSpan patient portal any time to view available appointments, and pick the date and time that best suits your schedule.

Go to MyWellSpan

New to this practice?

If you don't have a WellSpan primary care provider and would like to schedule a new patient appointment with a provider who is accepting patients, just log into your MyWellSpan account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to see the offices that are accepting new patients in relation to your zip code. If you are not enrolled in MyWellSpan, go to https://my.wellspan.org, call 1-866-638-1842 or speak with a member of the staff at a participating facility to sign up. New patient scheduling not available at all practices/programs.

Already a patient at this practice?

If you already have a relationship with a WellSpan practice, simply log into your account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to schedule an appointment with any provider or practice that already counts you as a patient. Online scheduling varies by practice/program.

×