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Echocardiogram


Definition:

An echocardiogram is a test that uses sound waves to create pictures of the heart. The picture is more detailed than a standard x-ray image. An echocardiogram does not expose you to radiation.

Alternative Names:

Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE); Echocardiogram - transthoracic; Doppler ultrasound of the heart; Surface echo

How to Prepare for the Test:

No special steps are needed before a TTE test. If you are having a TEE, will not be able to eat or drink for several hours before the test.

How the Test will Feel:
  • You will need to take off your clothes from the waist up and lie on an exam table on your back.
  • Electrodes will be placed on your chest to monitor your heart beat.
  • A gel is spread on your chest and the transducer will be moved over your skin. You will feel a slight pressure on your chest from the transducer.
  • You may be asked to breathe in a certain way or to roll over onto your left side. Sometimes a special bed is used to help you stay in the proper position.
Normal Results:

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 health care provider.

Risks:

There are no known risks from this test.

Considerations:

Abnormal results may indicate:

This test is used to evaluate and monitor many different heart conditions.

References:

Connolly HM, Oh JK. Echocardiography. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 15.


Review Date: 5/1/2013
Reviewed By: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, Washington Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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