Definition

An echocardiogram is an image test of the heart. It can show the size, shape, and motion of the heart. The test can also show how blood flows through the heart and blood vessels.

Heart Chambers and Valves
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There are different types of echocardiograms such as:

  • Contrast echocardiogram—A special dye is used to highlight some areas.
  • Stress echocardiogram—Done while the heart's workload is increased.
  • Echocardiogram with Doppler ultrasound—Tracks flow of blood through the heart.
  • Transesophageal echocardiogram——Tools are placed down the throat to get better images.

Reasons for Test

An echocardiogram may be used to:

  • Look for injury or illness of heart, heart valves, or sac around the heart
  • Check how well the heart is working
  • Find and define birth defects or abnormal growths
  • Follow treatment or disease progress

Possible Complications

There are no major problems with this test. Types of echocardioram, like stress, may have specific risk.

What to Expect

Prior to Test

Your doctor may review previous tests. It will help decide what type of test is best.

Description of Test

A gel is put on your chest. A small, hand-held device is pressed and moved against your skin. You will not feel anything except the device on your skin. Images of the heart will appear on a screen in the room. The doctor may move the device around. It will help to get a better view of different areas. You may be asked to change positions, and slowly breathe in or out, or hold your breath.

After Test

The gel is wiped from your chest. If you are well, you can go home.

How Long Will It Take?

30 to 60 minutes

Will It Hurt?

No

Results

Your doctor will talk to you about the results.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you have worsening heart symptoms.

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.

RESOURCES:

American Heart Association
https://www.heart.org

American Society of Echocardiography
https://www.asecho.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
https://www.heartandstroke.ca

REFERENCES:

Echocardiogram (echo). American Heart Association website. Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/diagnosing-a-heart-attack/echocardiogram-echo. Accessed March 26, 2019.

Echocardiography. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/echocardiography. Accessed March 26, 2019.

General ultrasound. Radiology Info—Radiologic Society of North America website. Available at: https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?PG=genus. Updated March 9, 2018. Accessed March 26, 2019.

Transthoracic echocardiography (TTE). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T919569/Transthoracic-echocardiography-TTE. Updated January 8, 2017. Accessed March 26, 2019.

Last reviewed March 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC  Last Updated: 3/26/2019