What is an Echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram is an ultrasound test that uses sound waves to produce images of your heart. High-pitched sound waves are sent through a special device called a transducer. As the sound waves bounce off of different areas of your heart, the device picks up on the echo and uses these echoes to create a moving picture of your heart.

What Are Echocardiograms Used For?

Echocardiograms are used by cardiologists to detect abnormalities in the heart valves and muscle. There are a number of different types of echocardiograms, which are used to detect certain heart abnormalities and diseases.

Types of Echocardiograms

  • Doppler Echocardiogram: This test checks the blood flow through the heart valves, heart chambers and blood vessels. The speed of the blood flow and its direction can be measured.
  • Transthoracic Echocardiogram: This is the most common type of echocardiogram. The transducer is moved to different locations on the abdominal wall and chest to create a picture of the heart. This test may be used to detect abnormal heart sounds (such as murmurs), an enlarged heart, or to determine the cause of chest pain, irregular heartbeats or shortness of breath. A transthoracic echocardiogram may also be performed to assess the health of the heart by checking cardiac performance, how well the heart valves perform, the thickness of the heart wall, and for tumors or blood clots inside of the heart.
  • Stress Echocardiogram: This type of echocardiogram is performed both before and after your heart is stressed. The stressing of the heart may be done through exercise or injecting a medicine that makes the heart beat harder and faster. Stress echocardiograms are often performed to check for coronary artery disease.
  • Transesophageal Echocardiogram: In order to perform this type of test, a probe must be sent down the esophagus. Although this test is more involved, it does provide a clearer and more accurate picture of the heart. An anesthetic and sedative are applied to the throat to make the test more comfortable.

Depending on the type of information your doctor needs, one or more echocardiograms may be performed. These tests will provide your cardiologist with a clearer picture of how your heart is functioning and whether or not there are any blood clots or tumors inside of your heart.

Contact us today if you have any questions or if you are in need of a heart specialist.