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Pediatric Echocardiogram

What does this test do?

Our team may decide that your child needs an echocardiogram, which uses sound waves to create pictures of the heart. This test helps diagnose heart defects that your child may have at birth.

How the test works

We may perform this test in a clinic, a hospital, or at an outpatient center. For this test, a child may be lying down or lying in their parent's lap--whatever helps keep them comfortable.

A trained sonographer will perform the test, and one of our cardiologists will read the results. Our expert team performs this test to examine heart valves, blood vessels, and chambers of your child's heart if your child has an abnormal genetic test, birth defects, increased risk, or shows the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Poor growth
  • Leg swelling
  • Heart murmur
  • Bluish color around the lips when crying
  • Chest pains
  • Unexplained fever
  • Germs in a blood culture test

Transthoracic Echocardiogram

TTE is the most common type of echocardiogram:

  • A sonographer puts gel on the child's ribs near the breastbone. The sonographer uses a hand-held transducer to press the gel on the chest. 
  • The transducer uses high-frequency sound waves and measures the echo coming back from the heart and blood vessels.
  • The echocardiography machine converts these impulses into moving pictures of the heart. We also take still pictures.
  • The procedure allows us to see the heart as it beats while also showing the heart valaves and other structures. 
  • The sonographer may also inject contrast dye through an IV to see inside the heart.
  • The test lasts for about 20 to 40 minutes.

How to prepare

You can take these steps to prepare your child before the procedure:

  • Your child should not eat or drink anything before the test.
  • Do not use any cream or oil on your child before the exam.
  • Parents should explain the test to older children so they understand to remain still during the test.
  • Younger children less than 4 years of age may need sedation to help them stay still.
  • We advise parents to give younger children a toy to hold or have them watch videos to help them stay calm. Our staff can also help!

How the test feels

  • We will ask your child to remove clothes from the waist up and lie flat on the exam table.
  • We will place electrodes on your child's chest to monitor the heart.
  • We will apply gel to your child's chest, and the gel may be cold! The transducer may cause a light pressure on your child's chest. 

What abnormal results mean

It's important for parents to remember that some abnormal findings are minor and do not pose risks.

However, some abnormal results may show signs of heart disease. Your primary care doctor, working closely with a pediatric cardiologist, will put an effective treatment plan into action and make sure everyone is informed and on the same page. 

The echocardiogram can help detect:

  • Abnormal heart valves
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Birth defects of the heart
  • Inflammation or fluid in the sac around the heart 
  • Infection in the heart valves
  • High blood press in the blood vessels to the lungs
  • Source of a blood clot