What is bubble echocardiogram (bubble echo)?

An Echo is a scan that uses ultrasound (sound waves) to produce pictures of the heart this gives information about how well the heart pumps and whether your heart valves are working properly. In addition to this, A small amount of agitated saline will be injected into the vein in your arm. The salty water contains tiny harmless bubbles which can be tracked on the echocardiogram scan revealing any potential shunt.

Why do I need this test?

If your doctor thinks there is a possibility that you may have a small hole in your heart, a bubble study can be used to help diagnose this or exclude it.

How is the test carried out?

You will be invited into a private consultation room. There will be two people in with you during the test; a cardiac physiologist performing the echo and a healthcare professional to administer the agitated saline.

You will be asked to undress to the waist and put on a gown that should be left open to the front. You will be asked to lie on a couch on your left-hand side. In most cases it will be possible for a friend or relative to accompany you during your Bubble echo.

Stickers will be attached to your chest/back and connected to the machine. These will be used to monitor your heart rate during the test. A needle (cannula) will be into a vein in your left arm. An ultrasound probe covered by a small amount of gel is placed gently on the centre of your chest and will be moved to different positions.

During the echo the light will be dimed you will hear sounds coming from the machine, which represent blood flow through the heart. The bubble Echo can take up to 45 minutes to complete.

Before your test

There are no specific instructions prior to your appointment; please continue to take any medication as normal. Please consider wearing a loose-fitting top.

After your test

Once the bubble echo is complete you can get dressed. Occasionally we may organise for you to be seen by a doctor following your scan, otherwise you are free to leave. Your result will be sent to your referring doctor in time for your next appointment with them.

Risks and side-effects

The stickers used can cause a skin reaction, if you have an allergy to skin adhesive or plasters, please let us know. There is an extremely small risk of an allergic reaction to the contrast agent (fewer than one in 10,000). If you have had allergic reaction to any medicines before, please inform us before starting the test.

Is there anything else I need to know?

If you require female members of staff, you can ask us in advance, and we will try to accommodate you. While it is often not possible to guarantee which staff are available on the day, we will work with you as best we can.

Rearrange or cancel your appointment

To rearrange or cancel your appointment, or to speak to someone about the information in this leaflet, please telephone 0203 758 2069.