Your doctor or cardiologist can take a close look at your heart using an echocardiogram.
An echocardiogram is a common ultrasound test that examines your heart and shows its movements.
The procedure is helpful in identifying any abnormalities in your heart and heart valves.
During the test, sound waves are used to produce images of your heart.
What Does an Echocardiogram Show?
An echocardiogram examines:
Heart size: The chambers or the muscular walls of your heart may be enlarged due to damaged heart valves, high blood pressure, or other diseases.
Heart valves: The test shows whether your valves are shaped normally, whether they open and close correctly, and whether they are leaky.
Damage to the heart muscle: If you have had a heart attack, coronary artery disease, or various other conditions, your heart walls may have damage.
Heart defects: Problems with the heart chambers, abnormal connections between the heart and major blood vessels, and congenital heart defects can all be detected via an echocardiogram.
Your heart's ability to pump: When your heart can't pump enough blood to meet your body's demands, heart failure may be a concern.
An echocardiogram can determine the ejection fraction, (the percentage of blood that's pumped out of a filled ventricle with each heartbeat) and the cardiac output (the volume of blood the heart pumps in one minute).
Blood clots, tumors, and vegetations (infectious growths) can all be seen via echocardiogram.
What Happens During an Echocardiogram?
The echocardiogram is a painless, non-invasive treatment.
During most types of echocardiograms, you will be asked to lie on a table in a surgical gown.
Electrodes will be attached to your chest, and a technician will apply gel to your chest and gather information via a transducer — a wand-like instrument that records the sound wave echoes produced by your heart.
Types of Echocardiograms
Transthoracic echocardiogram: This is the standard, noninvasive echocardiogram. The transducer is moved over your chest to view an image of your heart.
Transesophageal echocardiogram: During this procedure, a flexible tube containing a transducer is inserted into your throat and down your esophagus. It produces more detailed images of your heart.
Doppler echocardiogram: This procedure helps your doctor determine the speed and direction of the blood flow in your heart.
Stress echocardiogram: During this procedure, ultrasound images of your heart are taken before and after walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike.
This procedure helps identify any problems with the coronary arteries.
If you are unable to exercise, you may receive an injection of a medicine that increases your heart rate in order to simulate the effects of exercise.
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
- Test and Procedures: Echocardiogram (Mayo Clinic).
- What to Expect During Echocardiography (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute).