EchocardiographyEchocardiography is a common diagnostic test that uses high-frequency sound waves to create moving images of the heart’s valves, chambers, walls and blood vessels, allowing a physician to visualize the heart as it beats and pumps blood. The test may also be referred to as an echo test or a heart ultrasound.
A physician may suggest echocardiography to investigate:
- The cause of symptoms such as mild-to-moderate chest pain and shortness of breath
- The cause of a heart attack
- A heart murmur
- Suspected problems with the heart’s valves or chambers
- Suspected problems with the heart’s outer lining (pericardium)
- Possible blood clots in the heart’s chambers
- Abnormal holes in the walls that separate the heart’s chambers
- Congenital heart defects before birth
During an echocardiography test, the patient lies on an examination table. To prepare for the exam, a technician will apply a special gel and several small metal disks (electrodes) to the patient’s chest. The electrodes will be connected by wires to an electrocardiogram (EKG) machine, which will track the patient’s heartbeat throughout the test.
As the technician passes a handheld transducer over the patient’s chest, the transducer will produce sound waves that bounce off the patient’s heart and echo back. The transducer will then convert the echoes to images, which are displayed on a nearby video monitor and stored for later viewing. The entire process should take approximately one hour.
What to Expect
Echocardiography does not require any advance preparation, such as fasting. The exam is painless and has no side effects.
An echocardiogram can provide a physician with valuable information about the size and shape of the patient’s heart and how well it is functioning. Tampa General Hospital’s Heart & Vascular Institute offers this diagnostic test as well as a full slate of others in a single, convenient location.