An echocardiogram is a test that uses sound waves (ultrasound) to examine the heart. This is the same method used on a pregnant woman to look at her baby, but the echocardiogram looks at your heart instead.

The doctor will place lubricating jelly on your chest first. Then, they will place the recorder on your chest and a pulse of ultrasound is passed through the skin of your chest. The recorder picks up echoes reflected from various parts of your heart and translates them into a picture on the screen.

The procedure is completely painless and harmless and takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

An echocardiogram can give accurate information about the structure of your heart, its function and its valves.

In some cases, the doctor may wish to do this after your heart has been put under mild stress. In this case, you may be asked to exercise briefly to increase your heart rate, after which the echocardiogram is repeated.

Doctors commonly ask for a 24-hour recording of the ECG to detect heart rhythm disturbances. You will wear a small device, which is like a mini ECG machine, to record your heart activity with the same adhesive pads attached to your chest. You will usually wear this for a day and should try to lead a normal life during the recording.

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© Siemens
A patient having anechocardiogram.
© Siemens
Example of an echocardiogram

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ESC Guidelines for Heart Failure

What patients need to know

This guide for patients from the European Society of Cardiology aims to provide an overview of the latest evidence-based recommendations for the diagnosis and treatment of heart failure.

In particular, it should help patients to understand the:

  • main types of heart failure
  • medicines used to treat heart failure
  • devices that may be appropriate
  • importance of rehabilitation
  • management by a multidisciplinary team
  • importance of self-care in managing your own condition

Learn more


A series of 9 simple, captivating animations explaining heart failure and its treatment.

These narrated animations explain how a healthy heart works, what happens to it in heart failure and how various treatments work to improve your health.


In this section you can watch, listen or read interviews with other people with heart failure and their caregivers.


and share your own views and experiences with other patients, families and caregivers. is a European Society of Cardiology website

The website was developed under the direction of the Heart Failure Association of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). The ESC is a world leader in the discovery and dissemination of best practices in cardiovascular medicine. Our members and decision-makers are healthcare professionals who volunteer their time and expertise to represent professionals in the field of cardiology in Europe and beyond.

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