What is an echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram (also just called an echo) is a test that allows us to clearly watch your heart while it is beating. By doing this, we can better understand how your heart is functioning, as well as detect and diagnose any issues that may be of concern.

Why would I need an echo?

You may need an echo if you have abnormal heart sounds, irregular heartbeats, an enlarged heart, shortness of breath, or unexplained chest pains.

What do you look for during the echo?

  • Proper functioning of the heart muscle, blood vessels, and valves
  • Ability of the heart to pump blood
  • Thickness and movement of the heart walls
  • Reduced blood flow to the heart muscle (ischemia)
  • Collected fluid around the heart (pericardial effusion)
  • Blocked coronary arteries
  • Heart failure
  • Enlargements of the heart (cardiomyopathy)
  • Congenital birth defects
  • Damage from high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Inflammation of the membrane surrounding the heart (pericardial disease)
  • Damage and scarring from heart attacks

How do echocardiograms work?

A device (called a transducer) emits high-pitched sound waves, which bounce off different parts of your heart, creating echoes. The device then records these echoes and uses them to create moving pictures of your heart.

What types of echocardiograms do you perform?

How safe is an echo?

An echo is considered to be a very safe and effective diagnostic test. No harmful effects have been shown to result from using the sound waves.