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What is an echocardiogram?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

An echocardiogram is a sonogram of the heart.  In other words, sound waves can be “bounced” off the chest by a transducer and an image of the heart is then displayed on a screen. The technician that performs the test requires special training and education in heart anatomy. 

The echocardiogram is read by a cardiologist and provides very important information about the functioning of the heart. For example, an accurate estimation of the heart’s structure (including heart valves), function and flow of blood through the heart can be obtained. In a person with heart failure, the doctor can also get an idea of the approximate size of the heart and the degree of dysfunction.

How efficiently the left ventricle (the bottom left chamber of the heart) pumps blood can be determined by an echocardiogram and is called the ejection fraction. 

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

An echocardiogram is a diagnostic test for cardiomyopathy. In this examine, your doctor uses sound waves to create an image of your heart. By looking at the image of your heart, your doctor can see if it is enlarged due to cardiomyopathy or if it is beating abnormally.

An echocardiogram is an ultrasound study of the heart. It is very similar to the test women have during pregnancy to check on the health and development of the baby.

Like all ultrasound tests, an echocardiogram uses harmless sound waves to create detailed images of organs, tissues and blood flow inside the body. During an echocardiogram a probe, or transducer, is moved over the chest and abdomen, directing the high-frequency sound waves toward the heart. The transducer also receives the “echo” waves that bounce back off of the heart and its internal structures, including the valves between the upper and lower chambers, chamber walls and blood vessels.

The transducer records the time it took for a sound wave to bounce back as well as tiny changes in its pitch and direction. A computer instantly analyzes this information and creates images of the beating heart on a monitor in real time.

Continue Learning about Cardiovascular Diagnostic Techniques & Procedures

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.