Echocardiography is a cardiac imaging test used to help physicians identify heart conditions, such as valvular disease (damage to or a defect in one of the four heart valves), pulmonary hypertension, atherosclerosis (plaque buildup inside your arteries) and congestive heart failure (when your heart muscle does not pump blood as well as it should). This test can also detect cardiac tumors, congenital defects and other cardiovascular disorders.
In addition to real-time 2-D images of the heart, echocardiography (also known as cardiac echo or an echo) can incorporate Doppler techniques to show the movement of blood through the heart and blood vessels. It creates highly accurate images of the heart, its chambers and valves.
An Echocardiography Procedure
You will be instructed to remove clothing from the waist up and asked to lie flat on an exam table or bed. The technician then attaches sticky patches, or electrodes, to various places on your torso. After applying gel to the chest, the technician moves around a transducer, which is a wand that transmits ultrasound waves. The sound waves are converted into images of the heart on a computer screen. During the test, the technician may ask you to hold your breath or change position to capture the best image. Most echocardiograms take less than an hour to complete.
Houston Methodist has been a world leader in the development and application of 3-D echocardiography.