An echocardiogram utilizes sound waves to create pictures of the heart. The picture is more detailed than a standard x-ray image. An echocardiogram does not expose you to radiation. The test records echoes of sound waves and transmits them as electrical impulses. The echocardiography machine converts these impulses into moving pictures of the heart. Still pictures are also taken. A Doppler echocardiogram records the motion of blood through the heart.
What to Expect: A trained sonographer performs the test. A heart doctor (cardiologist) interprets the results. An instrument called a transducer is placed on your ribs near the breast bone and directed toward the heart. This device releases high-frequency sound waves. Images will be taken at other locations as well, including underneath and slightly to the left of your nipple and in the upper abdomen.
An echocardiogram allows doctors to see the heart beating. It also shows the heart valves and other structures.
Prep: There is no prep for this test.
Why the Test is Performed: This test is done to evaluate the valves and chambers of the heart from the outside of your body. The echocardiogram can help detect:
- Abnormal heart valves
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Congenital heart disease
- Damage to the heart muscle from a heart attack
- Heart murmurs
- Inflammation (pericarditis) or fluid in the sac around the heart (pericardial effusion)
- Infection on or around the heart valves (infectious endocarditis)
- Pulmonary hypertension
- Ability of the heart to pump (for people with heart failure)
- Source of a blood clot after a stroke or TIA
After the Test: You may resume your normal activities immediately following the test.