Frequently Asked Questions

Before scan

Our Farnham clinic is on the ground floor with step-free access, and has accessible toilet facilities. We suggest any patients with limited mobility book their appointment at Farnham. Our Hartley Wintney clinic is on the first floor; unfortunately, there is no lift available. If you have any concerns about additional needs during your appointment, please contact one of our Team (admin@echomed.co.uk).

An echocardiogram (or ‘echo’) is an ultrasound scan of the heart. The scan uses painless ultrasound waves to assess the structure and function of the heart’s muscle, valves and major blood vessels.

If you are experiencing symptoms which could be a sign of heart disease, or have been told you have a heart murmur, you should consider booking an echo scan. These symptoms include:

o Shortness of breath
o Fatigue
o Chest pain
o Dizzy spells
o Fainting
o Palpitations

Alternatively, people without symptoms who are looking for reassurance about the structure and function of their heart – such as those who engage in strenuous exercise or have a family history of cardiovascular disease – should also consider booking a scan with us. No GP referral is necessary.

An echo scan examines:

o The size of the heart’s four chambers
o The thickness, integrity and pumping function of the heart muscle
o The performance of the heart’s four valves, including the presence of any leaks or restrictions
o The size and function of the heart’s major blood vessels, including an assessment of the blood pressure in the lungs
o The lining of the heart, in particular any fluid collections or scarring

An echo can therefore diagnose many different heart conditions, including:

o Heart muscle disease that has developed during your life, such as damage from a previous heart attack or a severe infection
o Heart muscle disease related to high blood pressure or other medical problems
o Heart muscle diseases that are genetic (such as ‘hypertrophic cardiomyopathy’ or ‘dilated cardiomyopathy’)
o Structural anomalies that you were born with (such as a hole in the heart, or an abnormally formed valve)
o Valves that are excessively leaky (‘regurgitation’) or narrow (‘stenosis’) and therefore need monitoring or surgical replacement
o Problems with the large blood vessels connected to the heart, such as an enlarged aorta, or abnormally high pressure within the pulmonary arteries (‘pulmonary hypertension’)

Some of these conditions may require you to undergo further monitoring or investigation, family screening, treatment, or make lifestyle changes. As such, a normal echo is a very reassuring test.

Your booking not only includes one of our full transthoracic (external) echo scans, but also guarantees preliminary results on the same day, followed by a complete study report sent to you and your GP within 24 hours. Your scan results and images will be stored securely and, if needed, can be accessed remotely by other physicians at any time through an encrypted portal. If required, we will also schedule a complimentary follow-up virtual consultation with our Medical Director to discuss abnormal scan results.

An ECG (or electrocardiogram) is a 10 second assessment of the heart’s rhythm performed using stickers and wires. An ECG is an essential test for anybody concerned about their heart rhythm – particularly those people with a history of palpitations or dizziness. Whilst an abnormal ECG can also suggest underlying heart muscle disease, it cannot visualise the heart directly. By contrast, an echo uses ultrasound to create real-time images of the heart, and therefore provides important additional information about cardiac structure and function.

During scan

All of our scans are performed by a Doctor with special training in cardiac ultrasound. All of our team members have been awarded accreditation by the British Society of Echocardiography, and are subject to enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks.

An echo is a non-invasive diagnostic scan; no equipment is inserted inside the body, and no treatment is delivered. Instead, a hand-held ultrasound probe is coated with gel and passed across the surface of the chest; painless ultrasound waves are then used to create moving images of the heart.

To ensure accurate measurements during the scan, we will first measure your height and weight. To obtain high quality images, we will need to scan the heart from several different angles, including from underneath the left breast. As such, you will be asked to undress from the waist up (women will need to remove their bra) and change into a gown before the scan begins. Small electrode stickers are also attached to your chest to record the heart’s rhythm during the test.

For the majority of the scan itself, you will be asked to lie on your left-hand side with your left arm behind your head. If this is not possible, the test can be performed with you lying flat on your back. To improve image quality, our sonographers may also ask you to hold your breath for short periods during the scan.


An echo takes 15-30 minutes to complete. At the end of the scan, you may get dressed and leave immediately; there is no need for any observation or recovery period.

No. A transthoracic (external) echo is non-invasive, does not require the injection of any medications or dyes, and uses harmless ultrasound waves; there is no exposure to radiation.

After scan

The heart muscle has its own dedicated blood supply, which it receives from three small arteries running across its surface (the coronary arteries). People who develop atherosclerosis (fatty plaque deposits) may suffer a blockage in one or more of these arteries, which can damage an area of the heart muscle (this is a ‘heart attack’). This damage can be seen during an echo scan, however, the arteries themselves are too small to be visualised. As such, whilst an echo can find evidence of a previous heart attack, it cannot usually predict the risk of a future heart attack.

Anybody can have an echo scan, however, there are certain medical conditions (for example scoliosis) that reduce the quality of the ultrasound images and thereby limit the amount of information we can obtain about the heart.

Please note, we currently only offer scans and ECGs to adults. Children aged 16 years old or over are entitled to book in on the condition that they are capable of providing informed consent, are accompanied by a responsible adult, and have no history of congenital heart disease.

If you have questions about your suitability for a scan, please email admin@echomed.co.uk.

Even if your echo scan is completely normal, it is an important diagnostic test and should be included in your medical record. We therefore request your GP’s details as a condition of booking your scan, and will forward your finalised scan report onto them within 24 hours.

If your scan shows a significant heart problem, our Medical Director will contact you directly to discuss the next steps. It is likely that your GP will need to refer you on to your local Cardiologist for further investigation and treatment. If your scan identifies a minor heart problem, please see ‘Your scan results explained’ for our recommendations regarding the need for further follow-up.

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