An echocardiogram (echo or echocardiogram) is a type of ultrasound test that uses high-pitched sound waves to produce an image of the heart. The sound waves are sent through a device called a transducer and are reflected off the various structures of the heart. These echoes are converted into pictures of the heart that can be seen on a video monitor.
An echocardiogram generally is used to evaluate heart wall thickness and motion, as well as the structure and function of the heart valves. An echocardiogram can also be used to estimate the amount of blood pumped out of your left ventricle with each heartbeat (ejection fraction).
An echocardiogram can help identify areas of poor blood flow in the heart, areas of heart muscle that are not contracting normally, previous injury to the heart muscle caused by impaired blood flow, or evidence of heart failure, especially in people with chest pain or a possible heart attack. In addition, an echocardiogram can detect a blood clot in the heart, evaluate the heart valves for abnormalities, and identify pericardial effusion. A fetal echocardiogram can be used to detect congenital heart defects before birth.
There are different types of echocardiograms. A Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE) is the standard, most commonly used method of echocardiogram. Views of the heart are obtained by moving the transducer to different locations on the chest or abdominal wall. An Echo can be used as part of a stress test and in combination with electrocardiogram (EKG) monitoring to help your health professional gain additional information about your heart.