An echocardiogram is a diagnostic examination of a person’s heart. Doctors use high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to look at the size, shape and motion of the heart. In addition to the standard test, there are specialized echocardiograms:
- Stress echocardiogram – performed during a cardiac stress test to assess cardiac motion when increased demands are placed on the heart.
- Transesophageal echocardiogram – combines the ultrasound test with an endoscopy. A thin tube with a transducer on the end is inserted through the mouth and into the throat. The closer proximity to the heart produces clearer images.
Echocardiograms also may be combined with a Doppler study to assess blood flow.
Echocardiography is used to diagnose conditions involving the structure or function of the heart. An echocardiogram enables visualization of the four chambers of the heart, the valves, the blood vessels entering and leaving the heart, and the sac that surrounds the heart.