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.
- Doppler Echocardiogram — 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 threaded down your (numbed) throat emits sound waves inside your body, close to the heart, providing a clearer picture of the entire organ or a specific area.
- 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.