Echocardiogram: Transthoracic (TTE)

A transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE) is a type of diagnostic test which is used to look at the heart and surrounding blood vessels. It is in fact an ultrasound scan which means that a probe is used to emit high frequency sound waves that create echoes when they bounce off bits of the body. In this case, as the echoes bounce back the probe picks them up to give an image of the heart inside the body.

If you have visited the London Cardiac and Vascular Associates, they may have suggested that you have a TTE to investigate your heart. This will be carried out at the hospital by your cardiologist (Dr Byrne, Dr Melikian or Dr Dworakowski).

Make sure you don’t confuse an echocardiogram with an ECG (electrocardiogram), even though they have similar sounding names!

What do I need to do to prepare?

The is nothing you need to do to prepare for the TTE, just arrive at the hospital in plenty of time for the test.

What happens during a TTE?

During the test you will be lying down either on your back or left side on a bed. Small, sticky pads called electrodes are stuck to your chest. These record your heart rate (number of beats per minute) and rhythm during the test. The technician will rub a little bit of gel on your chest to help pick up the sound waves (just like an ultrasound scan when you’re pregnant). The technician will press a probe onto your chest and move it up and down and side to side. The probe emits echoes which are sent to a video monitor to record images of your heart. You may be asked to breathe deeply, hold your breath, breathe slowly or lie on your side. The technician will move the probe around your chest to see your heart from different angles.

The test usually lasts 15-60 minutes in total. After the test the electrodes are removed and the gel is wiped off.

How do I get my results?

Usually, the images from the scan will need to be interpreted before being discussed so your specialist will normally discuss results with you at a follow-up appointment.

What are the side effects and risks of a TTE?

There are actually no known risks from a TTE – although the gel can be a bit cold! If you feel at all unwell during the test just let the technician know and they can stop the test immediately. Unlike some other diagnostic tests (CT or X-ray), an ultrasound doesn’t use any radiation.

This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.