Bubble contrast echocardiogram


A specialised cardiac ultrasound study, used to detect connections between the right and left side of the heart

Cardiac test

What is a bubble study?

A bubble saline contrast echocardiogram can help to diagnose a Patent foramen ovale (PFO) or an atrial septal defect (ASD). This is a congenital defect where the valve separating the left and right heart chambers (atrial septums) stays open after birth. It's commonly known as a hole in the heart. Normally, the valve should close spontaneously.

During the test, salt water (saline) bubbles are injected into the blood stream and a cardio consultant watch on screen as they flow into the heart. A normal heart should retain the bubbles within the right-hand chamber (atrium), but if the bubbles leak into the left hand side, it indicates that the valve is still open.

Need to know

A small drip will be placed into your left or right arm to allow the injection of bubbles into your blood stream. Small sticky sensors (electrodes) connected to an ultrasound machine will be attached to your chest to monitor your heart rhythm.

You will then be asked to lie on your left hand side with your left arm above your head, allowing for better images to be acquired. Ultrasound gel and a small hand-held probe (transducer) is then applied to your chest to take pictures of your heart. After views of your heart have been acquired, 1 ml of your own blood will be mixed with 1 ml of air and 8 mls of a sterile saline solution.

The bubbles that created are injected into your blood stream. Your consultant will observe how the solution fills your heart chambers on a screen. The test lasts around 30 minutes in total.

Your consultant will explain the bubble echocardiogram to you and answer any questions you may have.

Your consultant will let you know the results of the test. If the test shows there is a problem with the heart valve, your consultant will discuss further treatment with you.

Our locations

The Harley Street Clinic

The Harley Street Clinic

35 Weymouth Street W1G 8BJ London
The Lister Hospital

The Lister Hospital

Chelsea Bridge Road, SW1W 8RH London
London Bridge Hospital

London Bridge Hospital

27 Tooley Street SE1 2PR London

This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.