What Is Echocardiography?
Echocardiography (EK-o-kar-de-OG-ra-fee) is a
painless test that uses sound waves to create images of your heart. It provides
your doctor with information about the size and shape of your heart and how
well your hearts chambers and valves are working.
The test also can identify areas of heart muscle
that arent contracting normally due to poor blood flow or injury from
attack(s). In addition, a type of echocardiography called Doppler
ultrasound shows how well blood flows through the chambers and valves of your
heart. Echocardiography can detect possible blood clots inside the heart, fluid
buildup in the sac around the heart (pericardium), and problems with the aorta
(the main artery that carries oxygen-rich blood out of the heart).
Who Needs Echocardiography?
Your doctor may recommend echocardiography if
youre suffering from signs and symptoms of heart problems. For example,
symptoms such as shortness of breath and swelling in the legs can be due to
weakness of the heart (heart
failure), which can be seen on an echocardiogram.
Doctors also use echocardiography to provide
- The size of your heart. An enlarged heart can be
the result of
blood pressure, leaky heart valves, or heart failure.
- Heart muscles that are weak and arent
moving (pumping) properly. Weakened areas of heart muscle can be due to damage
from a heart attack. Or weakening could mean that the area isnt getting
enough blood supply, which can be due to
- Problems with your hearts valves.
Echocardiography can show whether any of the valves of your heart dont
open normally or dont form a complete seal when closed.
- Abnormalities in the structure of your heart.
Echocardiography can detect a variety of heart abnormalities, such as a hole in
the septum (the wall that separates the two chambers on the left side of the
heart from the two chambers on the right side) and other
heart defects (structural problems present at birth).
- The aorta. Echocardiography is commonly used to
assess and detect problems with the aorta such as
(abnormal bulge or ballooning in the wall of an artery).
- Blood clots or tumors. If you have had a stroke,
echocardiography might be done to check for blood clots or tumors that may have
Doctors also use echocardiography to see how well
your heart responds to certain heart treatments, such as treatment for heart