Glossary of cardiac procedures

Echocardiogram (Echo)

This is an ultrasound just like the ultrasound used to look at babies during pregnancy. It is painless and harmless and takes moving pictures of the heart muscle pump and the valves.  It gives vital information and has a role in the investigation of all cardiac conditions.  The test takes about half an hour.  There are more specialised kinds of echo such as transoesophageal echo and stress echo, but your Doctor will explain these if you need them.

To get adequate pictures of the heart you will have to undress from the waist up.  You will be given a hospital gown, but some degree of exposure is necessary.  Please feel free to bring a friend or family member as a chaperone.


This takes pictures of the arteries that supply the heart.  A thin tube is passed from the groin or wrist artery to the heart and a dye is injected.  This dye shows up on an X-Ray.  It gives high quality pictures of the heart, but is an invasive test with a small risk of complications and so your Doctor will only recommend it if he/she suspects that you may have heart artery narrowing.  This test takes about half an hour, but you need to stay in hospital for a half a day for aftercare.  The test is done with local anaesthetic and you can even watch pictures of your heart while it is being done.


Pacemakers use special electrical wires implanted in the heart to control the heart rhythm.  They can be used to control slow heart rhythms, improve breathlessness in some patients with weak hearts and control some dangerous fast heart rhythms. They take 1-3 hours to put in and are usually done with local anaesthetic.

Patients having these procedures will be given a patient information leaflet and may need to sign a consent form prior to the procedure. Please remember to ask your Doctor if you have any concerns.