What is an Echocardiogram?
An echocardiogram, also called an echo, is a type of ultrasound test that evaluates the heart, the heart's valve function, and the blood flow in both. It also evaluates the motion of the heart’s walls and the amount of blood the heart pumps with each stroke.
Technically, echocardiograms use high-pitched sound waves sent through a device called a transducer. The device picks up the echoes of these sound waves as they bounce back off your heart. These echoes are turned into real-time, moving pictures of your heart that can be seen on a monitor. Echo is often combined with Doppler ultrasound and color Doppler to better see or identify blood flow across the heart's valves.
Doctors often suggest an echocardiogram when they suspect problems with the valves or chambers of a patient’s heart or it’s ability to pump. However, an echocardiogram is also able to be used to detect congenital heart defects in unborn babies.
Besides the ability to assess the overall function of your heart, an echo can help determine the presence of many types of heart disease, follow the progress of heart valve diseases over time or evaluate the effectiveness of medical or surgical treatments.
Depending on what information a doctor needs, they may request one of the following kinds of echocardiograms: