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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:
In addition to this standard test, there are specialized echocardiograms:
An echocardiogram may be used to:
There are no major complications associated with this test.
Your doctor may do the following:
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.
The gel is wiped from your chest.
The images are analyzed. Based on the findings, your doctor may recommend treatment or further testing.
After the test, call your doctor if you have worsening heart-related symptoms.
American Heart Association
American Society of Echocardiography
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada
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.
What is echocardiography? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at:
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/echo/echo_whatis.html. Updated October 31, 2011. Accessed March 5, 2013.
Who needs echocardiography? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/echo/whoneeds.html. Updated October 31, 2011. Accessed March 5, 2013.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Michael J. Fucci, DO
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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