Echocardiography, popularly called the echo test, is a painless test that uses sound waves to create moving pictures of your heart. The detailed pictures show the correct size and shape of your heart as well as the functioning of various parts of the heart including the valves, the septum, and the walls of the heart chambers. Doppler ultrasound can be used to show the movement of blood through your heart.
The test can help doctors find out areas of heart muscle that aren't contracting normally. Doctors usually use the test to diagnose heart problems or determine the course of treatment or monitor the treatment and improvements or confirm results of other tests or determine the need for more tests.
The echocardiography can be of following types:
This is the most common type of echocardiogram test. It involves placing a device called a transducer on your chest. The device sends special sound waves, called ultrasound, through your chest wall to your heart. A computer in the echo machine converts the waves that bounce back from the heart into pictures on a screen.
This type of echo test is done to create pictures of the heart before and after a recommended monitored exercise.
This echo test involves a transducer attached to an end of a flexible tube which is guided down your throat and into the esophagus.
Fetal echo, usually done at around 18 to 22 weeks of pregnancy, is used to look at an unborn baby's heart.
This type of echo creates 3D images of the heart showing how the heart looks and works.
Echocardiography doesn’t require any special preparation and is done either in a doctor's office or a hospital. You can eat, drink, and take any medicines like you normally do. However, you would be advised not to eat or drink for 8 hours prior to a transesophageal echo. If you're going to have a stress echo test, you may need to take steps to prepare for the stress test which may include warm up or some simple exercise as advised by the doctor.
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