Cardiac ultrasound, also known as echocardiography, is an imaging method for evaluating the heart and ventricles, that uses ultrasound to obtain real-time images of the heart muscle, chambers, and internal structures of the heart. As a non-invasive method of imaging investigation, which does not subject the patient to any risk, cardiac ultrasound is often recommended for routine control of the structure and functions of the heart.
How Much Does an Echocardiogram Cost?
Depending on what is covered, in general, the cost of a standard echocardiogram is anywhere between $900 and $2,800 in the United States. These costs are available for those who don’t have health insurance coverage. In case you have health insurance, you will have to co-pay for this procedure. For instance, according to Blue Cross, you will have to pay $90 to $250 for an echocardiogram with one of their health insurance plans.
Usually, an echocardiogram is combined with a color doppler and a doppler ultrasound in order to evaluate the blood flow across the heart’s valve. Plan on spending another $600 to $1,000 for an echo with a doppler.
Expect to pay anywhere between $1,200 and $2,000 or even more for a transesophageal echocardiogram, because of the extra cost of anesthesia. This procedure is needed in case the standard echocardiogram doesn’t reveal enough images of the heart.
You should be prepared to pay anywhere between $1,200 and $1,700 for a transthoracic echocardiogram.
As the echocardiogram is deemed to be medically necessary, you can count on your health insurance policy to cover it. If you have health insurance you will be responsible only for the co-pays and deductibles.
According to iTriageHealth, the average cost of an echocardiogram out-of-network is around $2,500, while the in-network price is almost $600.
In the table below you will find the average costs of an echocardiogram in several US states.
|Toms River, NJ||$1,000|
|Tampa Bay, FL||$1,200|
|St. Louis, MO||$1,700|
|San Francisco, CA||$2,200|
|San Diego, CA||$1,400|
|San Antonio, TX||$2,400|
Echocardiogram – short presentation
Doctors use echocardiography to clarify “chest pain”, to diagnose and evaluate disease of the heart valves, to follow a treatment for chronic heart disease, and, last but not least, to determine if there is a need for an emergency angiographic or surgical intervention or in the near future.
Children and adolescents may need an echocardiographic examination if they are suspected of a congenital disease, for diagnosis and establishing the treatment or the need for surgical intervention.
The doctor examines the patient and listens to his heart, and the echocardiography reveals heart murmurs if any.
What happens during the echocardiogram procedure?
A transthoracic echocardiogram will proceed as follows:
First, you will be asked to remove your clothes from the waist up and lie down on the bed in the doctor’s office.
The cardiologist will then apply a special gel to the left side of your chest and begin the investigation.
You may be asked to breathe a certain way or turn onto your left side.
Using a transducer, the doctor will obtain images of your heart from different angles. These images will be displayed on a monitor. The transducer, popularly called the ultrasound probe, is the essential part of the ultrasound machine because it is the one that generates ultrasounds and, at the same time, captures their echo, transforming them into images on the ultrasound monitor.
The cardiologist will move the probe over the entire chest area; it can also reach the axial area (underarm), neck, or even the back area. During all this time, the cardiologist will communicate to the nurse everything he observes in the ultrasound images.
You may hear a pulsating sound during the investigation. It’s just the sound of blood flowing.
Types of echocardiography
There are different types of echocardiography that are used in different situations or for different clinical indications.
- Conventional transthoracic echocardiography: the echo probe (called a transducer) is applied to the patient’s chest and transmits ultrasound through a gel. The ultrasounds are reflected by the tissues and are captured by the same probe. This information is decoded and appears on the echocardiograph screen, as a picture of the heart in motion.
- Contrast echocardiography: combines the echocardiographic examination with the intravenous injection of a contrast substance, which allows better visualization of the inside of the heart. It is very helpful in the diagnosis of congenital diseases and coronary disease.
- Transesophageal echocardiography: the patient swallows a miniature echo probe, which makes it possible to visualize the heart from the esophagus, without the image being obstructed by bones, muscles, or lungs, as in the case of transthoracic echocardiography.
- Doppler echocardiography: records the flow of blood flowing through the heart and vessels and can measure the speed, direction, and pressure of the blood in the chambers of the heart and in the vessels. During this examination, the patient hears a sound that resembles that of a washing machine.
- Stress echocardiography: combines the echocardiographic examination with an exercise test, either on a bicycle or a treadmill or by injecting medicinal substances that make the heart behave as if under an effort. It is very useful in the diagnosis and treatment of coronary heart disease (ischemic cardiopathy or heart artery disease).
What are the additional expenses?
After you get the result of an echocardiogram you will need to go to a cardiologist to read them to you. Expect to spend another $300 to $450 for the cardiologist’s reading fee. Only an expert cardiologist can read and evaluate the results of the echocardiogram. Sometimes you have to pay also an extra fee for the radiologist.
The cost of a pulmonary function test would be anywhere between $400 and $550, and a doctor will have to read the results of this as well, which is an additional expense.
Usually, during some procedures, medications will be used. For instance, intravenous injections are given during a transesophageal echocardiogram in order to tell the difference between the blood and tissue. This way it’s easier for the doctor to read the images.
Important things to consider
Echocardiogram is primarily indicated for cardiac patients suffering from structural heart disease, such as when one or more of the heart’s valves do not function normally. Also, a heart ultrasound is necessary when the patient shows symptoms of atherosclerotic disease: exertional angina or myocardial infarction. All these conditions are diagnosed with the help of cardiac Doppler ultrasound.
Here are some examples of echocardiogram indications: cardiac arrest, heart failure, chest pains, breathing difficulties, syncope (fainting), palpitations, systolic murmur, cardiomyopathy, pulmonary embolism, heart valve diseases, acute coronary syndrome, acute aortic syndromes, chest trauma, endocarditis.
Echocardiography does not require special patient preparation. This investigation is carried out in the cardiology doctor’s office or in the hospital.
Tips on saving money
Choose to go to a doctor’s office for an echocardiogram instead of a hospital as the cost is higher at the last one, regardless of whether you are an outpatient or inpatient. Expect to pay 20% to 30% more if you get the echocardiogram test performed at a hospital.
Also, the location of the hospital will affect the costs. You will have to pay more at a hospital located in the finest area of the city than at one that is located on the outskirts of the town.
Some hospitals may be able to work with you if you meet certain income requirements. They may set up monthly bill plans or offer financial assistance.
In case you don’t have health insurance, maybe it’s time to consider getting one. You can find various health insurance plans online that may be helpful.