An echocardiogram (echo) is a test that uses high frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to make pictures of your heart. The test is also called echocardiography or diagnostic cardiac ultrasound.
- An echo uses sound waves to create pictures of your heart’s chambers, valves, walls and the blood vessels (aorta, arteries, veins) attached to your heart.
- A probe called a transducer is passed over your chest. The probe produces sound waves that bounce off your heart and “echo” back to the probe. These waves are changed into pictures viewed on a video monitor.
- An echo can’t harm you.
Why do people need an echo test?
Your doctor may use an echo test to look at your heart’s structure and check how well your heart functions. The test helps your doctor find out:
- The size and shape of your heart, and the size, thickness and movement of your heart’s walls.
- How your heart moves.
- The heart’s pumping strength.
- If the heart valves are working correctly.
- If blood is leaking backwards through your heart valves (regurgitation).
- If the heart valves are too narrow (stenosis).
- If there is a tumor or infectious growth around your heart valves.
The test also will help your doctor find out if there are:
- Problems with the outer lining of your heart (the pericardium).
- Problems with the large blood vessels that enter and leave the heart.
- Blood clots in the chambers of your heart.
- Abnormal holes between the chambers of the heart.