An echocardiogram uses sound waves called ultrasound to look at the size, shape, and motion of the heart.

The test shows:

  • Four chambers of the heart
  • Heart valves and the walls of the heart
  • Blood vessels entering and leaving the heart
  • The sac that surrounds the heart

The Heart Sac
 heart sac vessels
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In addition to this standard test, there are specialized echocardiograms:

  • Contrast echocardiogram—A solution is injected into the vein and can be seen in the heart.
  • Stress echocardiogram—This records the heart's activity during a cardiac stress test.
  • Echocardiogram with Doppler ultrasound—This helps your doctor assess blood flow.
  • Transesophageal echocardiogram —To provide clear images of the heart, the ultrasound device is put down your throat. Your doctor may need to use this test depending on what part of the heart needs to be viewed. If you have the following conditions, you may need this test, rather than the standard echocardiogram:

An echocardiogram may be used 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 very ill patients
  • Assess chest pain
  • Look for blood clots within heart chambers