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An echocardiogram uses sound waves (called ultrasound) to look at the size, shape, and motion of the heart.
The test shows:
- Four chambers of the heart
- Heart valves and the walls of the heart
- Blood vessels entering and leaving the heart
- The sac that surrounds the heart
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In addition to this standard test, there are specialized echocardiograms:
- Contrast echocardiogram—A solution is injected into the vein and can be seen in the heart.
- Stress echocardiogram—This records the heart's activity during a cardiac stress test .
- Echocardiogram with Doppler ultrasound —This helps your doctor assess blood flow.
- Transesophageal echocardiogram —To provide clear images of the heart, the ultrasound device is put down your throat. Your doctor may need to use this view depending on what part of the heart needs to be looked at.
- Also, if you have the following conditions, you may need this test, rather than the standard echocardiogram:
- Certain lung diseases
What to Expect
Prior to Test
Your doctor may do the following:
- Physical exam
- Electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG) —a test that records the heart's activity by measuring electrical currents through the heart muscle
Description of Test
A gel is put on your chest. This gel helps the sound waves travel. The technician presses a small, hand-held device (called a transducer) 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.
The technician can capture a still image, or videotape moving images. To get clearer and more complete images, the technician may move the transducer 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.
How Long Will It Take?
Will It Hurt?
The images are analyzed by a specialist. Based on the findings, your doctor will recommend treatment or further testing.
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American Society of Echocardiography
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Heart Healthy Kit: Public Health Agency of Canada
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