An echocardiogram is a test that uses sound waves to create pictures of the heart. The picture and information it produces is more detailed than a standard x-ray image. An echocardiogram does not expose you to radiation.
How the Test is Performed
TRANSTHORACIC ECHOCARDIOGRAM (TTE)
TTE is the type of echocardiogram that most people will have.
- A trained sonographer performs the test. A heart doctor (cardiologist) interprets the results.
- An instrument called a transducer is placed on various locations on your chest and upper abdomen and directed toward the heart. This device releases high-frequency sound waves.
- The transducer picks up the echoes of sound waves and transmits them as electrical impulses. The echocardiography machine converts these impulses into moving pictures of the heart. Still pictures are also taken.
- Pictures can be two-dimensional or three-dimensional. The type of picture will depend on the part of the heart being evaluated and the type of machine.
- A Doppler echocardiogram evaluates the motion of blood through the heart.
An echocardiogram shows the heart while it is beating. It also shows the heart valves and other structures.
In some cases, your lungs, ribs, or body tissue may prevent the sound waves and echoes from providing a clear picture of heart function. If this is a problem, the health care provider may inject a small amount of liquid (contrast) through an IV to better see the inside of the heart.
Rarely, more invasive testing using special echocardiography probes may be needed.