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Echocardiogram (Echo)

An echocardiogram is sometimes called a heart ultrasound. This non-invasive, painless test uses sound waves to take images and video of the heart’s valves, muscle, and blood flow. Echocardiograms are performed by trained sonographers and are interpreted by cardiologists, who use them to check the heart’s structure and how well it is functioning. They often are used for patients who have unexplained chest pain, a heart murmur, a congenital heart defect, a heart attack, or rheumatic fever.

Types of Echocardiograms

Stress Echocardiogram

Stress echocardiogram uses a traditional transthoracic echocardiogram, but it is done after exercise or in tandem with medication to make your heart beat faster. This allows your doctor to check how your heart performs under stress.

Transthoracic Echocardiography (TTE)

This is the most common type of echocardiography. It is painless and noninvasive. A device called a transducer will be placed on your chest over your heart. The transducer sends ultrasound waves through your chest toward your heart. A computer interprets the sound waves as they bounce back to the transducer. This produces the live images that are shown on a monitor.

Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE)

If a TTE doesn’t produce the definitive images, your doctor may recommend a transesophageal echocardiogram. In this procedure, a much smaller transducer is guided through a thin, flexible tube in your mouth and down your throat. (Your throat will be numbed to make this procedure easier.)

This tube is guided through your esophagus (the tube that connects your throat to your stomach). With the transducer behind your heart, your doctor can get a better view of any problems.

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