Having Contrast Echocardiography

Having Contrast Echocardiography

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Having Contrast Echocardiography

Your doctor recommends that you have contrast echocardiography (also called “a contrast echo”). This is an imaging test that uses sound waves (ultrasound) to take pictures of the heart while it is beating. During the test, a special type of fluid (contrast agent) is injected into your vein to help show structures in the heart better. It allows the inside of the heart to be seen more clearly on the ultrasound pictures. A contrast echo is most often done to check for certain heart problems that cannot be detected with other imaging tests. From start to finish, the test takes about 60 minutes.

Before the test

  • Follow any instructions given by your doctor to prepare for the test.

  • On the day of the test, wear a two-piece outfit. You may need to undress from the waist up and put on a short hospital gown.

Let the technologist know

For your safety, let the technologist know if you: 

  • Have a known or suspected heart or lung problem. This is especially important if you have a condition called cardiac shunt (blood crossing from one side of the heart to the other when it's not suppose to). 

  • Have any other medical conditions. 

  • Are allergic to perflutren (contrast agent) or any medications.

  • Are taking any medications, including vitamins, herbs, and over-the-counter medications.

  • Are or may be pregnant.

  • Are breastfeeding.


During the test

A contrast echo is performed by an ultrasound technologist (sonographer). A nurse or doctor (cardiologist) may also be present during the test.

Woman wearing hospital gown lying on exam table on side. Healthcare provider is holding echocardiogram probe to woman's chest and looking at monitor.

  • You’ll lie on your back on an exam table or hospital bed.

  • An IV line is placed into a vein in your arm or hand.

  • Small pads (electrodes) are placed on your chest to monitor your heart rate. In addition, special equipment is used to monitor your vital signs (blood pressure, breathing, and blood oxygen level).

  • A cool, clear gel is placed on your chest. Then a handheld device called a transducer is moved firmly over your chest. The transducer releases harmless sound waves, which are processed by a computer. Live pictures of your heart can then be viewed on a monitor.

  • The contrast agent is injected through the IV into your bloodstream to reach your heart.

  • At times, you may be asked to change positions. This allows pictures of your heart to be taken from different angles. You may also be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds. This helps prevent the pictures from being blurry.

  • When the test is complete, the gel is cleaned off your chest and the IV is removed from your arm or hand.

  • The pictures of your heart are sent to your doctor for review.

After the test

  • You may need to rest after the test. Your vital signs will continue to be monitored during this time. You’ll be told when you can go home.

  • After you go home, return to your usual activities when you feel ready.

Risks and possible complications of a contrast echo include:

  • Excessive bruising, bleeding, swelling, or other problems at the IV site

  • Side effects such as dizziness, weakness, fatigue, palpitations, headaches, and nausea

  • Allergic reaction to the contrast (rash, hives, trouble breathing, swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue)

Follow-up care

Your doctor will go over the test results with you during a follow-up visit. This is usually within 1 to 2 weeks. Be sure to share any concerns you have with your doctor.