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Echocardiogram

(Echo; Heart Ultrasound; Ultrasound of the Heart)

Definition

An echocardiogram uses sound waves called ultrasound to look at the size, shape, and motion of the heart.
The test shows:
The Pericardium
 heart sac vessels
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In addition to this standard test, there are specialized echocardiograms:

Reasons for Test

An echocardiogram may be used to:

Possible Complications

There are no major complications associated with this test.

What to Expect

Prior to Test

Your doctor may do the following:
  • Physical exam
  • Electrocardiogram (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. A small, hand-held device called a transducer is pressed 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.
Still images or videotape moving images can be captured. To get clearer and more complete images, the transducer may be moved to different areas of your chest. You may be asked to change positions and slowly inhale, exhale, or hold your breath.

After Test

The gel is wiped from your chest.

How Long Will It Take?

30-60 minutes

Will It Hurt?

No

Results

The images are analyzed. Based on the findings, your doctor may recommend treatment or further testing.

Call Your Doctor

After the test, call your doctor if you have worsening heart-related symptoms.

RESOURCES

American Heart Association http://www.heart.org

American Society of Echocardiography http://asecho.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada http://www.heartandstroke.ca

Public Health Agency of Canada http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca

References

Explore echocardiography. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/echo. Updated October 31, 2011. Accessed March 5, 2013.

Huttemann E. Transoesophageal echocardiography in critical care. Minerva Anestesiol. 2006;72:891-913.

Sanderson JE, Chan WW. Transoesophageal echocardiography. Postgrad Med J. 1997;73:137-140.

Transoesophageal echocardiography (TEE). American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/SymptomsDiagnosisofHeartAttack/Transesophageal-Echocardiography-TEE%5FUCM%5F441655%5FArticle.jsp. Updated June 20, 2012. Accessed March 5, 2013.

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