An echocardiogram is a noninvasive procedure used to assess the heart’s function and structures. During the process, a transducer (like a microphone) sends out sound waves at a frequency too high to be heard. When the sensor s placed on the chest at specific locations and angles, the sound waves move through the skin and other body tissues to the heart tissues, where the waves bounce or “echo” off of the heart structures. These sound waves are sent to a computer that can create moving images of the heart walls and valves.
The doctor may recommend echocardiography (echo) if you have signs or symptoms of heart problems.
For example, shortness of breath and swelling in the legs are possible signs of heart failure. Heart failure is a condition in which your heart can’t pump enough oxygen-rich blood to meet your body’s needs. Echo can show how well your heart is pumping blood.
Echo also can help your doctor find the cause of abnormal heart sounds, such as heart murmurs. Heart murmurs are extra or unusual sounds heard during the heartbeat. Some heart murmurs are harmless, while others are signs of heart problems.
An echocardiogram can be done in a doctor’s office or a hospital. You wear a hospital gown and lie on a table. After squirting some clear jelly onto your chest to help the ultrasound sensor slide around easily, a technician or doctor places the sensor (which looks like a microphone) against your skin.
You usually can go back to your normal activities right after having echocardiography (echo).
If you have a transesophageal echo (TEE), you may be watched for a few hours at the doctor’s office or hospital after the test. Your throat might be sore for a few hours after the test.
You also may not be able to drive for a short time after having TEE. Your doctor will let you know whether you need to arrange for a ride home.