Healthy Living

What Is a Bubble Study?

What Is a Bubble Study?

Key Takeaways

  • A bubble study is a type of echocardiogram, which is the ultrasound of the heart.
  • In a bubble study, a saline solution is used as a "contrast" to produce better images of the heart.
  • The procedure is very safe with no serious side effects reported. 

What is a bubble study?

A bubble study is a type of echocardiogram, which is the ultrasound of the heart. An echocardiogram is done to visualize the heart and its surrounding areas. Better images of the heart can be produced when a “contrast” is used during the echocardiogram. In a bubble study, the type of contrast used is saline or sterile salt water. 

In a bubble study, the doctor or an echo technician will agitate the saline solution until it creates small bubbles. These small bubbles are injected into the vein through an IV line. If the bubbles are only seen on the right side of your heart, you have a normal heart. However, if the bubbles are seen on the left side of your heart, it means that there is a hole between the two sides of your heart, which is abnormal. The heart abnormality can either be an atrial or ventricular defect. The bubble study can help identify such abnormalities.

When your doctor asks for an echocardiogram, you might also be asked to undergo a bubble study. Performing an echocardiogram with bubble study can be very helpful to patients who have had a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or stroke. 

To undergo an echocardiogram with bubble study, the doctor or nurse will place an IV line, where the shaken sterile saline solution will be injected while the ultrasound is ongoing. It is a simple procedure with only minutes added to the echocardiogram test. 

The procedure is also very safe with no serious side effects reported. The only risk is minimal bruising or infection at the site of the intravenous (IV) line.

Preparing a child for bubble study

If your child needs to undergo a bubble study, just follow the instructions made for the usual echocardiogram. You must also explain to your child that before the test, an intravenous (IV) line will be placed on his or her arm. An intravenous (IV) line is a needle with an attached tube needed for fluids to be directly injected into your child’s bloodstream.

Eating and drinking before the test

Most of the time, children do not need special preparations before undergoing an echocardiogram. However, young children below three years old may be given a sedative, which will help them fall asleep during the procedure. Like any other imaging tests, an echocardiogram will produce the best results if the patients are still and not active.

If children will be given a sedative before the test, they will be required to stop eating or drinking hours before the procedure. A nurse will remind you about it days prior to the procedure to ensure that you have understood how to prepare your child before the test. 

The timetable below will guide you when and what to do before the test:

  • Before 8 hours: No more solid food, milk, or orange juice for your child. Your child is not allowed to eat cookies, gum, or candy. However, your child can drink clear liquids such as apple juice, ginger ale, or water.
  • Before 6 hours: Milk or formula should not be given anymore.
  • Before 4 hours: Time to stop breastfeeding the baby.
  • Before 2 hours: Strictly no more clear liquid intake. 

What to expect during a bubble study

At the beginning, the child will be asked to change into a hospital gown. During the procedure, the doctor, nurse, and sonographer, which is the one who will operate the echocardiogram machine will be in the room.

The doctor will start the process of bubble study by preparing the bubble solution. The bubble solution will then be mixed in a sterile syringe and is injected into the child's IV. The sonographer will operate the echocardiogram machine and will take the pictures with the echocardiogram probe.

After completing the test

1) If your child did not take a sedative

The child can drink or eat as usual. The child will be sent home after the test by removing the IV and placing a bandage on the insertion site.  

2) If your child was given a sedative

The nurse or doctor will tell you on how to handle your child and what should be done and when. 

The process of echocardiogram with bubble study is one of the effective ways of dealing with the fragile and highly important part of the body, which is the heart. The bubble study is significant when it comes to heart surgeries. It helps in making a close observation of the heart for possible problems and to find ways to prevent heart failure in the near future. 

How effective are both echo and bubble study?

An echocardiogram is nothing but an ultrasound scan of the heart. It has high-frequency sound waves, which get transmitted into the body. Once the sound waves get transmitted into the body, it produces an echo that is received back onto the monitor showing the heart's internal structure.

The bubble study offers a modern technique to test the heart for any abnormalities in terms of an opening in the upper cardiac chambers, which can sometimes cause heart failure. The bubble study helps in finding any hole present in the chambers of the heart and also to find if blood is present inside it causing any trouble.

The bubble will be passed through the heart and its path will be traced for the possible problem, which could turn into a serious problem in the near future.

Will the bubble study hurt?

The insertion of the cannula may cause a little sharp but short-lived pain, but when the cannula is properly inserted, the rest of the test is painless.

How is the bubble study performed?

Generally, the bubble study is performed by doctors with the help of an echocardiographer, who can either be a cardiac physiologist or a doctor.

During the bubble study, the patient is asked to remove his or her clothes and wear a hospital gown. The bubble study test is mainly performed in an enclosed private room that is well facilitated.

The patient will be asked to lie on his or her back lying on the left side. A gel will be applied to the upper portion of the chest. The gel can even be applied to the neck and stomach, too. The echocardiographer takes pictures of the area where the gel is applied. The images of the heart can be taken in different angles. The bubble study is to test the chest area and not the breasts. The patient can be accompanied a family member or a friend during the bubble study.

Expert doctors and trained nurses are the only ones who can perform the bubble study test. 

How much time is needed for the bubble study?

It takes about 40-50 minutes to complete an echocardiogram with bubble study. It needs time for the bubbly solution to pass the heart and get the scanning done.

Test results

After 7-10 days, the doctor will get the results. The doctor will then explain to you what the test results mean.