This is a test usually done in out-patients when ultrasound is used to study the heart anatomy. Its very much like any other ultrasound and usually takes about 20 minutes. The ultrasound probe is pressed against the chest wall which can be a bit uncomfortable but most patients do not find it an unpleasant test. The sort of things an echocardiogram can look for is an enlarged heart, scarring of the heart muscle from a heart attack, thickening of the heart muscle because of high blood pressure, abnormallities of the heart valves that could be the cause of a murmur and high pressures in the heart that could be the cause of shortness of breath. There are two types of echocardiogram, transthoracic (through the chest wall) and trans-oesophageal (where the utrasound probe is passed under sedation down the gullet).
This is also called an exercise test and is where patients with suspected angina are walked on a treadmill while their heart tracing is monitored. The test consists of three minute stages and after each stage the treadmill gets steeper and faster. If you get to the third or fourth stage some patients need to jog but for most patients they will complete two or three stages and will just be walking. This test is also done on an out-patient basis and although full gym gear is not necessary, comfortable shoes are preferable along with loose fitting clothing. As well as investigating angina, a treadmill test is used to investigate palpitations and also to pass HGV drivers as fit for their special licence. Often patients will be asked to stop their heart tablets (particularly beta-blockers) 48-hours before the test to allow the heart to be worked out properly.