An echocardiogram (also called an echo) is a type of
ultrasound test that uses high-pitched sound waves
that are sent through a device called a transducer. The device picks up echoes
of the sound waves as they bounce off the different parts of your heart. These
echoes are turned into moving pictures of your heart that can be seen on a
The different types of echocardiograms are:
Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE). This is the
most common type. Views of the heart are obtained by moving the transducer to
different locations on your chest or abdominal wall.
Stress echocardiogram. During this test, an
echocardiogram is done both before and after your heart is stressed either by
having you exercise or by injecting a medicine that makes your heart beat
harder and faster. A stress echocardiogram is usually done to find out if you
might have decreased blood flow to your heart (coronary artery disease).
Doppler echocardiogram. This test is used to look
at how blood flows through the heart chambers, heart valves, and blood vessels.
The movement of the blood reflects sound waves to a transducer. The ultrasound
computer then measures the direction and speed of the blood flowing through
your heart and blood vessels. Doppler measurements may be displayed in black
and white or in color.
Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE). For this
test, the probe is passed down the
esophagus instead of being moved over the outside of
the chest wall. TEE shows clearer pictures of your heart, because the probe is
located closer to the heart and because the lungs and bones of the chest wall
do not block the sound waves produced by the probe. A
sedative and an
anesthetic applied to the throat are used to make you
comfortable during this test.
Echo can be used as part of a stress test and with an
electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) to help your doctor learn more
about your heart.
Why It Is Done
Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE)
This test is
Look for the cause of abnormal heart sounds
(murmurs or clicks), an enlarged heart, unexplained chest pains, shortness of
breath, or irregular heartbeats.
Check the thickness and movement
of the heart wall.
Look at the heart valves and check how well they
See how well an artificial heart valve is
Measure the size and shape of the heart's
Check the ability of your heart chambers to pump blood
(cardiac performance). During an echocardiogram, your doctor can calculate how
much blood your heart is pumping during each heartbeat (ejection fraction). You might have a low ejection fraction if you have
Detect a disease that
affects the heart muscle and the way it pumps, such as