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What is a Bubble Echocardiogram?

A bubble echocardiogram procedure is performed with an ultrasound machine.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 05 April 2014
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A bubble echocardiogram is a procedure which is designed to give a doctor an idea of how well someone's heart is functioning. This medical test may be ordered for a patient who appears to be experiencing problems related to the physical function of the heart, such as leaky valves or an oversized heart. Very few risks are associated with a bubble echocardiogram, and the procedure is virtually painless. A patient's doctor or cardiologist will usually discuss the procedure and its possible outcomes with a patient before the bubble echocardiogram is performed.

In a traditional echocardiogram, the patient's heart is ultrasounded to create a picture of the heart, allowing medical professionals to assess the condition of the heart without the need for invasive surgery. The test is typically performed by an ultrasound technician, who may record the procedure or print out specific images which may be of interest to a physician. In a bubble echocardiogram, the echocardiogram is performed, and then a bubble of saline is injected into a vein in the arm.

As the saline moves through the heart, the ultrasound technician follows it. The saline makes certain heart functions more visible, highlighting problems in the left ventricle, the major pumping area of the heart, along with issues with the valves. The saline ultimately dissipates harmlessly into the blood, and is eventually expressed by the body along with other waste materials.

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From start to finish, a bubble echocardiogram usually takes around half an hour. The patient is usually asked to remove his or her top so that a clearer image can be generated, and the procedure starts with the application of conductive gel to the area of interest. This gel helps the ultrasound machine generate a clearer picture. Some discomfort is associated with the injection of saline, but beyond that, a bubble echocardiogram should not cause pain or complications for the patient.

Having an imaging study of your heart is not something to be immediately concerned about, as results can be quite varied, and you have a number of options when it comes to responding to test results. It is important to stay relaxed and calm during such procedures, even if you are worried, to ensure that tension does not not interfere with test results. Your doctor may take a day or two to review the results of the bubble echocardiogram before discussing them with you.

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Discuss this Article

anon345016
Post 19

How do you feel after a bubble test? Can I go to work the next day?

anon307535
Post 17

I ad a bubble test today and did not have to cough or bear down and she said she had enough at rest. What does that mean?

anon276012
Post 16

Is there a CPT code used for the Bubble Study, separate from the normal echo codes?

anon257954
Post 15

I've had weakness, chest discomfort, shortness of breath and fluid retention in my abdomen for several years on and off.

I had the flu or something like it in 2005. I recovered, but about a week after the flu I developed a dry cough and then chest pains and shortness of breath. I went to the ER and they said it wasn't a heart attack and sent me home. I was weak and short of breath for months.

I cannot fly in an airplane anymore without getting chest pain and every time I start an aerobic exercise program like the treadmill I get weak and start to retain fluid after a few days of aerobics.

I've had multiple echos and stress echos, even a cardiac cath and a CT angio but they cannot find the problem. Can anyone relate to this? It's so frustrating.

anon251378
Post 14

So I had a bubble echo today and it was the first time. They were investigating the results of other cardiology testing that was done during pregnancy.

I had three abnormal EKGs when I was pregnant and that was cause for concern. Apparently I have a hole in my septum. My question is, if a lot of bubbles leaked to the other side, do I need to be more concerned? About half or more of the bubbles went to the other side.

anon160630
Post 13

I had a echo bubble test yesterday. The tech could not see bubble. Injected three times. What would cause that?

anon144153
Post 12

is there anything special you need to do before taking an echo bubble study?

anon135054
Post 11

yes you can eat and drink before the test. I had the echo ultrasound today, but they could not get a vein for the bubble test.

anon134045
Post 10

i am having a echo and bubble study. I have chest pain have blacked out headaches, my feet are blue and lost all feeling in my toes. this is the first time I've seen a cardiovascular doctor. this has gone on for a year, and my regular doctor kept saying stress until he saw my legs and feet.

anon124488
Post 9

I had a bubble test done and it was painless (thanks to my super awesome nurse who was great at putting in the IV). They inject air into saline solution so there are a million little bubbles. The solution looks opaque rather than clear.

That is injected into a vein, which enters the heart and should then be carried to the lungs where the bubbles dissipate. Non-bubbly blood then enters the other side of the heart. If there is a hole in the septum, the bubbles will stream through into the other side of the heart. So, bubbles in two sides of the heart= hole.

anon99050
Post 8

What are the risks of this procedure? If they hit an artery instead of a vein when they release the solution could it cause heart damage? Are there any serious risks involved?

anon51112
Post 7

yes, you can eat and drink before the echo bubble study.

anon47190
Post 6

anon27254: The test has no pre-procedure requirements. However, the tech told me it was probably a good idea that I had skipped my morning cup of coffee. She said coffee *sometimes* makes the heart beat faster. The tech and the doctor were pretty vague as to why I needed the bubble test. Other than the needle-prick to insert an IV line, the only discomfort came when the tech pressed the probe between two of my ribs and later when she pressed it against the top of my belly. No big deal.

anon44249
Post 5

anon28009 - Have you been tested for syncope? The cardiologist would need to do a tilt table test to determine. That would cause fainting. It is a lack of blood flow to the brain - you need to stay hydrated. some take salt tablets, and some are put on blood pressure meds to regulate the pressure - even if you have really low pressure. Something to check into.

emd9112001
Post 4

I am being scheduled for a bubble test. The Heart Echo showed an abnormality in the lower part of my heart. I get weak easily and feel heart palpitations with minor activity. I have headaches, neck pain and shoulder pain as soon as I get out of bed in the morning which is somewhat relieved with pain meds and muscle relaxers but returns within 3 hours after the meds. I hope there is a non invasive answer to this besides medications. I have heard so many people being addicted to pain meds that it worries me.

I have also been diagnosed with myofascial pain syndrome so I am trying to find out which ailment is causing which symptoms.

anon30581
Post 3

My doctor has ordered a echo with bubble of the lungs. Perhaps this would show more than CT Angio.

anon28009
Post 2

I had a bubble test done, but the ultrasound was focused on my eyelids, temples and two pressure points on the back of my head. My test results were 5x5x5, too numerous to count.

I was told I probably had a hole in my heart, which took me to a cardiologist and then after his test findings - no hole and no problems, I had a CT Angio to see if the hole or leakage was in the lung area, still no results. I feel faint if I get too warm.

Not sure where to go or what to do next. Any suggestions are much appreciated.

anon27254
Post 1

Can you eat/drink before the test?

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