An echocardiogram is an ultrasound test which bounces high-pitched sound waves off the various areas of your heart. Those sound waves echo back to the machine. Technologists see those echoes on a computer screen and they record the resulting pictures for further analysis.
Different types of echocardiograms include:
- Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE): This is the most common type of echocardiogram. In a TTE, technicians obtain pictures of the heart by moving the ultrasound device to different locations on your chest or abdomen.
- Stress echocardiogram: During this test, an echocardiogram is done both before and after your heart is induced to beat harder and faster through either exercise or medication. A stress echocardiogram can discover if coronary artery disease is decreasing blood flow to your heart.
- Doppler echocardiogram: This test is used to look at how well your blood flows through your heart. The movement of the blood reflects sound waves to the ultrasound device. The computer then measures the direction and speed of the blood flow.
- Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE): For this test, a thin, flexible tube is passed down the esophagus. TEE shows clearer pictures than a standard echocardiogram because the ultrasound device is closer to the heart and the lungs and ribs do not block the sound waves. A sedative and an anesthetic applied to the throat are used to make you comfortable during this test.
Your physician can schedule an echocardiogram for you. An initial consultation with a physician is recommended to determine the appropriateness of this screening.