Alternate Names : Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE), Echocardiogram - transthoracic, Doppler ultrasound of the heart, Surface echo
An echocardiogram is a test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart. The picture is much more detailed than a plain x-ray image and involves no radiation exposure.
Why is the Test Performed?
This test is performed to evaluate the valves and chambers of the heart in a noninvasive way. The echocardiogram allows doctors to diagnose, evaluate, and monitor:
How is the Test Performed?
A trained sonographer performs the test, then your heart doctor interprets the results. An instrument called a transducer that transmits high-frequency sound waves is placed on your ribs near the breast bone and directed toward the heart.
Additional images will be taken underneath and slightly to the left of your nipple (at the apex of your heart). The transducer picks up the echoes of the sound waves and transmits them as electrical impulses. The echocardiography machine converts these impulses into moving pictures of the heart. The Doppler probe records the motion of the blood through the heart.
An echocardiogram allows doctors to see the heart beating, and to see many of the structures of the heart. Occasionally, your lungs, ribs, or body tissue may prevent the sound waves and echoes from providing a clear picture of heart function. If so, the sonographer may inject a small amount of liquid (contrast) through an IV to better see the inside of the heart.
Very rarely, more invasive testing using special echocardiography probes may be necessary.
TRANSESOPHAGEAL ECHOCARDIOGRAM (TEE)
Your health care provider may choose to perform a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE):
- If the regular or transthoracic echocardiogram is unclear due to a barrel chest, lung disease, or obesity
- If a much clearer picture is needed of a certain area
With TEE, the back of your throat is numbed and a scope is inserted down your throat. On the end of the scope is an ultrasonic device that an experienced technician will guide down to the lower part of the esophagus. It is used to obtain a more clear two-dimensional echocardiogram of your heart.
How to Prepare for the Test?
There is no special preparation for the test.
How will the Test Feel?
You will be asked to remove your clothes from the waist up and lie on an examination table on your back. Electrodes will be placed on your chest to allow for an ECG to be done. A gel will be spread on your chest and then the transducer will be applied. You will feel a slight pressure on your chest from the transducer. You may be asked to breathe in a certain way or to roll over onto your left side.
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