Echocardiography, also known as an echocardiogram and echo test, is a painless test that uses sound waves, ultrasound, to produce images of your heart—showing its size, structure and motion. It provides valuable information about your heart health and can determine the presence of many types of heart disease. An echocardiography is often combined with a Doppler ultrasound which is able to capture images of how blood moves through your heart. This helps to determine how the blood is flowing between the chambers and valves of the heart. Echocardiography helps to detect heart valve disease, heart failure, and congenital heart disease.
Types of Echocardiography
- Transthoracic Echocardiography (TTE)
During a transthoracic echocardiogram, also called a cardiac ultrasound, the transducer is placed on the chest wall or thorax to capture images of the heart.
- Transesophageal Echocardiography (TEE)
When transthoracic echocardiograph (TTE) images are not clear enough to be read, a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) may be performed . A transducer is placed down the throat to capture images of the heart from the esophagus.
- Fetal Echocardiography
An echocardiogram that is performed during pregnancy to examine the heart of the fetus is called a fetal echocardiogram. A transducer is placed on the mother's abdomen to capture images of the baby's heart. A fetal echocardiograph can help detect congenital heart abnormalities before birth.
How Echocardiography Is Performed
During an echocardiogram, a special jelly is placed on the body area that is being examined, while a wand-like device called a transducer is passed over the skin. Ultra-high-frequency sound waves capture images of your heart and valves to be seen on screen, recorded as a video or printed as a photo. This painless test lasts about 15–20 minutes.