Echocardiography Key Points
What are the key points of echocardiography?
- Echocardiography (echo) is a painless test that uses sound waves to create pictures of your heart.
- This test gives your doctor information about the size and shape of your heart and how well your heart's chambers and valves are working. In addition, a type of echo called Doppler ultrasound shows how well blood flows through the chambers and valves of your heart.
- Your doctor may recommend echo if you have signs and symptoms of heart problems. The test can be used to confirm a diagnosis, determine the status of an existing problem, or help guide treatment.
- There are several types of echo. Transthoracic and stress echo are standard types of the test. Transesophageal echo (TEE) is used if the standard tests don't produce clear results. A fetal echo is used to look at an unborn baby's heart. A three-dimensional (3D) echo may be used to help diagnose heart problems in children or plan and monitor heart valve surgery.
- Echo is done in a doctor's office or hospital. The test usually takes up to an hour to do. A standard echo doesn't require any special preparations or followup. If you're having a TEE, you usually shouldn't eat or drink for 8 hours prior to the test.
- During a standard echo, your doctor or sonographer will move a wand-like device called a transducer around on your chest to get pictures of your heart. During a TEE, the transducer will be put down your throat to get a better view of your heart.
- A cardiologist (heart specialist) will review the results from your echo.
- You usually can go back to your normal activities right after having echo. If you have TEE, you may be watched for a few hours at the doctor's office or hospital after the test.
- Transthoracic and fetal echo have no risks. If you have TEE, some risks are associated with the medicine given to help you relax. Rarely, the tube used in TEE can cause minor throat injuries. The risks for stress echo are related to the exercise or medicine used to raise your heart rate. Serious complications from stress echo are rare.
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Echocardiography.