An echocardiogram (also known as an echo or cardiac echo) is a test that uses ultrasound to create images of the heart. An ultrasound sends sound waves through the area of the body being studied to create images of internal body structures. Echocardiograms are used to study the size, shape and motion of the heart.

The heart and vascular specialists at Houston Heart use echocardiograms to:

  • Evaluate a heart murmur
  • Diagnose valve conditions
  • Find changes in the heart's structure
  • Assess motion of the chamber walls and damage to the heart muscle after a heart attack
  • Assess how different parts of the heart work in people with chronic heart disease
  • Determine if fluid is collecting around the heart
  • Identify growths in the heart
  • Assess and monitor birth defects
  • Test blood flow through the heart
  • Assess heart or major blood vessel damage caused by trauma
  • Test heart function and diagnose heart and lung problems in those who are very ill
  • Assess chest pain
  • Look for blood clots within heart chambers

During the standard echocardiogram, called a transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE), a small, hand-held device called a transducer is pressed against your skin. The transducer sends sound waves toward your heart. The sound waves are then reflected back to the device. The waves are converted into electrical impulses. These impulses become an image on the screen and are captured as moving or still pictures.

In addition to the standard test, there are specialized echocardiograms:

  • Contrast echocardiogram – a solution, injected into the vein, can be seen in the heart
  • Stress echocardiogram – records the heart's activity during a cardiac stress test
  • Echocardiogram with Doppler ultrasound – helps your physician assess blood flow
  • Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) – the transducer is inserted down the throat into the esophagus, avoiding interference from the lungs and chest, providing a clearer picture

Heart and vascular specialists

The experienced heart and vascular specialists at Houston Heart are experts at diagnosing and treating heart and vascular conditions.

To learn more, schedule an appointment.