An echocardiogram is a test that uses sound waves to create pictures of the heart. The picture and information it produces is more detailed than a standard x-ray image. An echocardiogram does not expose you to radiation.
Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE); Echocardiogram - transthoracic; Doppler ultrasound of the heart; Surface echo; Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE)
How the Test is Performed
TRANSTHORACIC ECHOCARDIOGRAM (TTE)
TTE is the type of echocardiogram that most people will have.
An echocardiogram shows the heart while it is beating. It also shows the heart valves and other structures.
In some cases, your lungs, ribs, or body tissue may prevent the sound waves and echoes from providing a clear picture of heart function. If this is a problem, the sonographer may inject a small amount of liquid (contrast) through an IV to better see the inside of the heart.
Rarely, more invasive testing using special echocardiography probes may be needed.
TRANSESOPHAGEAL ECHOCARDIOGRAM (TEE)
The back of your throat is numbed and a scope is inserted down your throat.
On the end of the scope is a device that sends out sound waves. A heart doctor with special training will guide the scope down the esophagus. This method is used to get a clearer echocardiogram of your heart.
How to Prepare for the Test
No special steps are needed before a TTE test. If you are having a TEE, you will not be able to eat or drink for several hours before the test.
How the Test will Feel
During the test:
Why the Test is Performed
This test is done to evaluate the valves and chambers of the heart from the outside of your body. The echocardiogram can help detect:
Your health care provider may recommend a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) if:
A normal echocardiogram reveals normal heart valves and chambers and normal heart wall movement.
What Abnormal Results Mean
An abnormal echocardiogram can mean many things. Some abnormalities are very minor and do not pose major risks. Other abnormalities are signs of serious heart disease. You will need more tests by a specialist in this case. It is very important to talk about the results of your echocardiogram with your provider.
There are no known risks from an external transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE) test.
There is some risk associated with the transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) test. Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) is an invasive procedure. Talk with your health care provider about risks associated with this test.
Abnormal results may indicate:
This test is used to evaluate and monitor many different heart conditions.
Solomon SD, Wu J, Gillam L and Bulwer B. Echocardiography. In: Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, et al. eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 14.
Review Date: 4/20/2015
Reviewed By: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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