Your doctor may recommend echocardiography (echo) if you have signs and symptoms of heart problems. For example, shortness of breath and swelling in the legs can be due to weakness of the heart (heart failure), which can be seen on an echocardiogram.
Your doctor also may use echo to learn about:
- The size of your heart. An enlarged heart can be the result of high blood pressure, leaky heart valves, or heart failure.
- Heart muscles that are weak and aren't moving (pumping) properly. Weakened areas of heart muscle can be due to damage from a heart attack. Weakening also can mean that the area isn't getting enough blood supply, which may be due to coronary heart disease (also called coronary artery disease).
- Problems with your heart valves. Echo can show whether any of your heart valves don't open normally or don't form a complete seal when closed.
- Problems with your heart's structure. Echo can detect many structural problems, such as a hole in the septum and other congenital heart defects. The septum is the wall that separates the two chambers on the left side of the heart from the two chambers on the right side. Congenital heart defects are structural problems present at birth. Infants and children may have echo to detect these heart defects.
- Blood clots or tumors. If you've had a stroke, echo might be done to check for blood clots or tumors that may have caused it.
Your doctor also may use echo to see how well your heart responds to certain heart treatments, such as those used for heart failure.