An echocardiogram is a test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart. The picture is much more detailed than a plain x-ray image and involves no radiation exposure.
An echocardiogram allows doctors to see the heart beating, and to see the heart valves and other structures of the heart.
There is no special preparation for the test.
How the Test Will Feel
You will be asked to remove your clothes from the waist up and lie on an examination table on your back. Electrodes will be placed on your chest to allow for an ECG to be done. A gel will be spread on your chest and then the transducer will be applied. You will feel a slight pressure on your chest from the transducer. You may be asked to breathe in a certain way or to roll over onto your left side.
Why the Test is Performed
This test is done to evaluate the valves and chambers of the heart in a noninvasive way. The echocardiogram allows doctors to diagnose, evaluate, and monitor:
- Abnormal heart valves
- Atrial fibrillation
- Congenital heart disease
- Damage to the heart muscle in patients who have had heart attacks
- Heart murmurs
- Infection in the sac around the heart ( pericarditis)
- Infection on or around the heart valves ( infectious endocarditis)
- Pulmonary hypertension
- The pumping function of the heart for people with heart failure
This test may also be performed for other conditions not listed above.