Echocardiogram

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI
    Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI

    Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI

    Dr. Kulick received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Southern California, School of Medicine. He performed his residency in internal medicine at the Harbor-University of California Los Angeles Medical Center and a fellowship in the section of cardiology at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiology.

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Why is an echocardiogram performed?

The purpose of an echocardiogram is to assess the structure and function of the heart. It is recommended as a noninvasive procedure as part of assessing potential and established heart problems.

Regarding structure, the test can assess the general size of the heart, the size of the four heart chambers, and the appearance and function of the four heart valves. It can look at the two septa of the heart; the atrial septum separates the right and left atrium and the ventricular septum separates the right and left ventricles. It can also assess the pericardium (the sac that lines the heart) and the aorta.

Regarding function, the echocardiogram can determine how the heart valves open and close. It can evaluate whether the heart muscle squeezes appropriately and how efficiently. Cardiac output measures how much blood the heart pumps. Ejection fraction measures what percent of blood within the heart is pumped out to the body with each heartbeat. It can also measure how well the heart relaxes in between beats, when the heart fills for the next pump.

Some heart issues that the echocardiogram can help evaluate include the following:

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/7/2015

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