Echocardiography is a test that uses sound waves to produce live images of your heart. The image is an echocardiogram. This test allows your doctor to monitor how your heart and its valves are functioning. The images can help them spot:
Blood clots in the heart
Fluid in the sac around the heart
Problems with the aorta, which is the main artery connected to the heart
An echocardiogram is key in determining the health of the heart muscle, especially after a heart attack. It can also reveal heart defects in unborn babies.
Taking an echocardiogram is painless. There are only risks in very rare cases with certain types of echocardiograms.
Echocardiography has become routinely used in the diagnosis, management, and follow-up of patients with any suspected or known heart diseases. It is one of the most widely used diagnostic tests in cardiology. It can provide a wealth of helpful information, including the size and shape of the heart (internal chamber size quantification), pumping capacity, and the location and extent of any tissue damage. An echocardiogram can also give physicians other estimates of heart function, such as a calculation of the cardiac output, ejection fraction, and diastolic function (how well the heart relaxes).
Echocardiography can help detect cardiomyopathies, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, dilated cardiomyopathy, and many others. The use of stress echocardiography may also help determine whether any chest pain or associated symptoms are related to heart disease. The biggest advantage to echocardiography is that it is not invasive (does not involve breaking the skin or entering body cavities) and has no known risks or side effects.
Not only can an echocardiogram create ultrasound images of heart structures, but it can also produce an accurate assessment of the blood flowing through the heart by Doppler echocardiography, using pulsed- or continuous-wave Doppler ultrasound. This allows assessment of both normal and abnormal blood flow through the heart.