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What is echocardiography?

Echocardiography is the use of ultrasound waves to analyze the function of the heart. Using sound waves, medical imaging specialists create an image of the heart, which is called an echocardiogram.

The images obtained through echocardiography can provide information about:

  • Blood clots in the heart chambers
  • The size of the heart (e.g., changes in dilation, chamber size, or thickening)
  • Problems with the aorta
  • Fluid in the sac around the heart
  • Pressure in the heart
  • Problems with the relaxing or pumping functions of the heart
  • Problems with heart valve functions

A doctor may order an echocardiogram for many reasons, such as an unusual discovery during other testing or from listening to the heart with a stethoscope.

The different types of echocardiography include:

  • Transthoracic echocardiography
  • Transesophageal echocardiography
  • Stress echocardiography
  • Three-dimensional echocardiography
  • Fetal echocardiography

These different types vary based on invasiveness, what type of patient they are performed on, and what a doctor has the patient do during the test.

Why is echocardiography important?

Echocardiography is important because it helps a doctor determine the health of the heart muscles, and it is especially important after someone has had a heart attack. Additionally, the echocardiogram can reveal if there are any heart defects or irregularities, especially in unborn babies.

Overall, echocardiography offers a low-risk way to obtain information about one of the most important organs in the body.