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How an Echocardiogram is Performed

How an Echocardiogram is Performed

Echocardiograms are performed by placing a transducer on the chest and aiming  it at the heart. The transducer transmits and receives sound waves that bounce off the heart. A computer compiles these returning sound waves, or echoes, and turns them into a picture of the heart.

In some cases, the picture of the heart may not be clear because of obesity, a barrel chest, or lung disorders. In these cases, a physician may perform a transesophageal echocardiogram. For this test, the patient's throat is numbers and a special transducer is placed inside the throat. From there, the sound waves are aimed at the heart.

Generally, no preparation is required for a transthoracic (transducer on the chest) echocardiogram, although patients are usually asked to refrain from eating for at least 8 hours prior to a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE).

A normal echocardiogram displays normal heart chambers and valves. It also shows normal heart movement. An abnormal echocardiogram may indicate the following:

  • Blood clots in the heart
  • Cardiomyopathy, or a weakening of the heart muscle
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Fluid in the sac around the heart
  • Heart valve disease
  • Other heart abnormalities