Echocardiogram for children: A guide for parents on what to expect

Written by: Dr Abbas Khushnood
Edited by: Sophie Kennedy

In this informative guide for parents and guardians, revered consultant paediatric cardiologist and transplant physician Dr Abbas Khushnood shares key insight on what to expect from an echocardiogram for children.

What is an echocardiogram?

Echocardiogram (Echo) is a form of ultrasound scan. It is the most frequently used heart scan for diagnosing heart problems.

Different types of echocardiograms

Echocardiograms can be described in multiple categories. The most common echocardiography undertaken in children is called transthoracic echocardiogram, where images are taken by placing the ultrasound probe on the patient's chest. This can be performed in all children from birth to adults.

Another form of echocardiography is called transoesophageal echocardiogram, where images are taken by inserting the ultrasound probe into the patient's oesophagus or food pipe. This is more commonly used in adults under local anaesthesia and in children by putting them to sleep by giving general anaesthesia.

We also perform foetal echocardiograms, which are heart scans undertaken during pregnancy (antenatal scans). The ultrasound scan takes detailed pictures of the heart to see how it is developing and to look at the blood flow around it. In most cases, it is performed to check that the heart is developing normally and allows cardiologists to make a diagnosis of potential congenital heart disease before the birth of the baby. This helps in better counselling to parents and if a problem has been identified, this can be explained to parents along with all the options available, i.e. if your baby is likely to need medical and/or surgical treatment and when this is likely to be needed.

Other forms of echocardiography include advanced imaging e.g. 3D/4D echocardiography, stress echocardiography, advanced functional echocardiography.

What is the aim of an echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram (Echo) lets us evaluate the structure, function, and blood flow through the heart. It helps make the diagnosis of any structural abnormality within the heart, also known as congenital heart disease (as the child is born with such a heart defect) or issues with function of the heart (commonly related to weakness of heart muscle or cardiomyopathy).

How is an echocardiogram for a child performed?

Parents will be able to stay with your child throughout the scan. They will need to take off their t-shirt and lie on a bed next to the echo machine. The scan can last up to 45-60 minutes and your child will need to lie very still so good quality pictures can be taken.

The echocardiographer will put some gel on your child’s chest area and will then use a probe to send and receive ultrasound waves in order to make a picture. You and your child will be able to see the picture on a screen at the side of the bed.

Are there any risks?

The echo scan carries no risks, and is painless with no lasting effects. The gel used also causes no harm, although it can feel a little cold.

What happens after the scan?

The echocardiographer will give you some paper towels so that you can rub off the gel used in the scan. If your child is not having any further tests, you can then take them home. The echocardiographer will send a report about the scan’s results to your child’s doctor.

If you wish to schedule a consultation with Dr Khushnood, visit his Top Doctors profile today.

By Dr Abbas Khushnood
Paediatric cardiology

Dr Abbas Khushnood is a highly esteemed consultant paediatric cardiologist and transplant physician based in Newcastle upon Tyne. He specialises in chest pain, heart murmurs, syncope and palpitations in children. He is also expert in congenital heart disease and echocardiogram.

Dr Khushnood was awarded a bachelor of medicine and surgery degree in India in 1997. After relocating to the UK, he completed a masters in business administration at Cardiff University. In 2007, he undertook his first post within the NHS and went on to complete specialist training in paediatric cardiology at several renowned institutions, including Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. He additionally completed a two-year specialist fellowship in cardiac MRI at University College London and Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. He was appointed consultant in 2018 at Newcastle upon Tyne’s Freeman Hospital where also currently holds the senior positions of clinical governance lead and clinical lead for cardiac imaging within the hospital’s cardiothoracic department. He additionally sees private patients via e-Consultation.

Dr Khushnood is a highly respected expert in his field and holds several esteemed positions including clinical lead for the National Institute for Cardiovascular Outcomes Research and network lead for the North-East Paediatric CHD Network. His academic work is widely published in scientific journals and as associate clinical lecturer at Newcastle University, he is also a prominent educator in the field of cardiology.

View Profile

Overall assessment of their patients

  • Related procedures
  • Arrhythmia
    Hypertension (high blood pressure)
    Heart murmur
    Blood pressure test
    Sports cardiology
    This website uses our own and third-party Cookies to compile information with the aim of improving our services, to show you advertising related to your preferences as well analysing your browsing habits. You can change your settings HERE.