What is an echocardiogram?
An echocardiogram, sometimes just called an "echo" or heart ultrasound, is one of the main types of routine heart examinations. It is helpful in the diagnosis of many different types of heart disease. There are different types of echocardiogram examinations, some of which can also be combined.
The doctors who perform the examination use an ultrasound transducer (probe), which can be held against your chest from outside the body. Alternatively, it can be passed into your body through your esophagus (food pipe) and placed near to the heart at the tip of an endoscope (a long tube). The transducer produces sound waves that are reflected back as an echo. The different types of heart tissue and the blood-filled heart chambers reflect the waves differently. This sound wave echo is used to create a moving black and white ultrasound image on a monitor.
The image shows the structure of the heart and makes it possible to see how big the heart chambers are, how well the valves work, and how thick the heart muscle tissue is. You can also watch the heart at work in real time and track the direction of blood flow or determine how well your heart can pump blood.