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An echocardiogram uses sound waves to produce images of your heart which allows the doctor to see how your heart is beating and pumping blood. The doctor uses the images from the echocardiogram to identify abnormalities in the heart muscle and valves. Echocardiogram is used to:

  • Determine the overall functioning of the heart.
  • Determine the presence of heart disease and congenital heart disease.
  • Follow the progress of valve disease over time
  • Determines the effectiveness of the medical or surgical treatments.

Depending on the information that the doctor needs, different kinds of echocardiograms may be recommended

  • Transthoracic echocardiogram: This is a standard, noninvasive echocardiogram in which a technician spreads gel on the chest and then presses a transducer firmly against the skin, aiming an ultrasound beam through the chest to the heart. The transducer records the sound wave echoes that the heart produces and a computer converts these echoes into moving images on a monitor.
  • Transesophageal echocardiogram: When the doctor is unable to get a clear picture of the heart with a standard echocardiogram then a transesophageal echocardiogram is recommended. In this procedure, a flexible tube containing a transducer is guided down your throat and into your esophagus. From there, the transducer is able to obtain more-detailed images of the heart.
  • Doppler echocardiogram: When sound waves bounce off blood cells moving through your heart and blood vessels, they change pitch. These Doppler signals help the doctor measure the speed and direction of the blood flow in the heart. Doppler techniques are used in most transthoracic and transesophageal echocardiograms, and they determine blood flow problems and blood pressures in the arteries of the heart that traditional ultrasound might not detect.
  • Stress echocardiogram: Some heart problems happens only during physical activity and for these a stress echocardiogram is done, in which an ultrasound image of the heart is taken before and immediately after walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike.