What are different types of echocardiography?

There are basically two types of echocardiogram: transthoracic and transesophageal echocardiograms.

There are three types of echocardiography: transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE), transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) and intracardiac echocardiogram (ICE). A transthoracicn echocardiogram takes images within the body from the skin’s surface, without devices entering the body. For TEE, images are taken from within the esophagus (food pipe), and ICE involves taking images from within the heart using a special catheter (narrow tube) that is inserted into one of the large veins of the body. TEE and ICE can provide more detailed images than traditional echocardiography.

There are several types of echocardiography (echo)—all use sound waves to create pictures of your heart. This is the same technology that allows doctors to see an unborn baby inside a pregnant woman. Unlike x-rays and some other tests, echo doesn't involve radiation.

Transthoracic Echocardiography
Transthoracic echo is the most common type of echocardiogram test. It's painless and noninvasive. ""Noninvasive"" means that no surgery is done and no instruments are inserted into your body. This type of echo involves placing a device called a transducer on your chest. The device sends special sound waves, called ultrasound, through your chest wall to your heart. The human ear can't hear ultrasound waves. As the ultrasound waves bounce off the structures of your heart, a computer in the echo machine converts them into pictures on a screen.

Stress Echocardiography
Stress echo is done as part of a stress test. During a stress test, you exercise or take medicine (given by your doctor) to make your heart work hard and beat fast. A technician will take pictures of your heart using echo before you exercise and as soon as you finish.Some heart problems, such as coronary heart disease, are easier to diagnose when the heart is working hard and beating fast.

Transesophageal Echocardiography
With standard transthoracic echo, it can be hard to see the aorta and other parts of your heart. If your doctor needs a better look at these areas, he or she may recommend transesophageal echo (TEE). During this test, the transducer is attached to the end of a flexible tube. The tube is guided down your throat and into your esophagus (the passage leading from your mouth to yourstomach). This allows your doctor to get more detailed pictures of your heart.

Fetal Echocardiography
Fetal echo is used to look at an unborn baby's heart. A doctor may recommend this test to check a baby for heart problems. Fetal echo is commonly done during pregnancy at about 18 to 22 weeks. For this test, the transducer is moved over the pregnant woman's belly.

Three-Dimensional Echocardiography
A three-dimensional (3D) echo creates 3D images of your heart. These images provide more information about how your heart looks and works.

This answer from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has been reviewed and/or edited by Dr. William D. Knopf.

An echocardiogram is a noninvasive (the skin is not pierced) procedure used to assess the heart's function and structures. An echocardiogram may utilize one or more of four special types of echocardiography, as listed below:

  • M-mode echocardiography — This, the simplest type of echocardiography, produces an image that is similar to a tracing rather than an actual picture of heart structures. M-mode echo is useful for measuring heart structures, such as the heart's pumping chambers, the size of the heart itself, and the thickness of the heart walls.
  • Doppler echocardiography — This Doppler technique is used to measure and assess the flow of blood through the heart's chambers and valves. The amount of blood pumped out with each beat is an indication of the heart's functioning. Also, Doppler can detect abnormal blood flow within the heart, which can indicate a problem with one or more of the heart's four valves, or with the heart's walls.
  • Color Doppler — Color Doppler is an enhanced form of Doppler echocardiography. With color Doppler, different colors are used to designate the direction of blood flow. This simplifies the interpretation of the Doppler technique.
  • 2-D (2-dimensional) echocardiography — This technique is used to visualize the actual structures and motion of the heart structures. A 2-D echo view appears cone-shaped on the monitor, and the real-time motion of the heart's structures can be observed. This enables the physician to see the various heart structures at work and evaluate them.

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