Echocardiography uses sound waves to create a picture of your heart that is more precise than a regular X-ray and uses no radiation. A sonogram expert performs the test, and a cardiologist reads the results.
You and your doctor can discuss several echocardiogram options, including:
- Transthoracic Echocardiogram (TTE) — The most common “echo” test, this noninvasive procedure creates moving or still images of the heart. A sonographer places a smooth device called a transducer near your heart. It emits sound waves and picks up echoes off the heart structures, which convert into pictures on a monitor. This test examines and records the motion of blood flowing through the heart’s chambers, valves and blood vessels. The movement of the blood reflects sound waves to a transducer. The ultrasound computer then measures the blood’s direction and speed.
- Stress Echocardiogram — This test is performed before and after stressing your heart with exercise or a medication to increase heart rate. It helps your doctor find out if you have impaired blood flow.
- Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE) — A scope is threaded down your (numbed) throat into the swallowing tube (esophagus). From there, it emits sound waves towards the a heart, and the echoes from heart structures can be converted into a very clear 2-D or 3-D picture. Specific problems with heart valves or structures can be evaluated carefully using this technique.
- Agitated Saline Contrast Study (aka Bubble Study) — While you’re receiving a regular echocardiogram, an intravenous line introduces a saline solution with microscopic bubbles into your bloodstream. If you have a small hole in your heart, some bubbles may appear on the left side during the echocardiogram.
- Intracardiac Echocardiogram — This imaging technique uses a maneuverable tube (catheter) with a transducer on the tip. Your doctor inserts the tube near your groin and threads it up to the heart, where it emits sound waves. This type of echocardiogram creates a much clearer of your heart’s internal structures or arteries.