An echocardiogram uses sound waves called ultrasound to look at the size, shape, and motion of the heart. The test shows:
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In addition to this standard test, there are specialized echocardiograms:
An echocardiogram may be used to:
There are no major complications associated with this test.
Your doctor may do the following:
A gel is put on your chest. This gel helps the sound waves travel. A small, hand-held device called a transducer is pressed against your skin. The transducer sends sound waves toward your heart. The sound waves are then reflected back to the device. The waves are converted into electrical impulses. These impulses become an image on the screen.
Still images or videotape moving images can be captured. To get clearer and more complete images, the transducer may be moved to different areas of your chest. You may be asked to change positions and slowly inhale, exhale, or hold your breath.
The gel is wiped from your chest.
The images are analyzed. Based on the findings, your doctor may recommend treatment or further testing.
After the test, call your doctor if you have worsening heart-related symptoms.
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Heart Association
American Society of Echocardiography
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada
Echocardiogram. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/DiagnosingaHeartAttack/Echocardiogram---Echo_UCM_451485_Article.jsp#.Wphg12rwZQI. Updated October 13, 2017. Accessed March 1, 2018.
Echocardiography. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/echocardiography. Accessed March 1, 2018.
General ultrasound. Radiology Info—Radiologic Society of North America website. Available at: https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?PG=genus. Updated May 30, 2016. Accessed March 1, 2018.
Transoesophageal echocardiography (TEE). American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/SymptomsDiagnosisofHeartAttack/Transesophageal-Echocardiography-TEE_UCM_441655_Article.jsp#.WphfzGrwZQI. Updated October 13, 2017. Accessed March 1, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC Last Updated: 11/27/2017