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Alternative Names
echocardiogram, transoesophageal, transoesophageal echocardiogram, echocardiogram, Doppler ultrasound of the heart

This test uses sound waves to create an image of the heart. The technique is called echocardiography. The resulting image is called the echocardiogram. An echocardiogram helps a doctor evaluate a person's heart's valves and chambers.

Echocardiography is a good method for diagnosing heart disorders and for finding tumours and blood clots in the upper chambers of the heart. It is also good for monitoring the motion of the heart after a heart attack.

Who is a candidate for the test?
Many patients with underlying heart disease are candidates for this procedure. It can be used as a guide to the heart for other diagnostic and therapeutic procedures.

Echocardiography can help diagnose the following:
  • problems with the structure of the heart, such as the chambers, valves, or aorta
  • heart disease that is present at birth
  • coronary artery disease
  • problems with the muscles of the heart
  • diseases of the sac and fluid that surround the heart
How is the test performed?
For this test, the doctor or technician places a device called a transducer on the chest and aims it at the heart. The transducer sends out and receives sound waves that bounce off the heart. A computer takes 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, the doctor can do transoesophageal echocardiography. For this test, the doctor numbs the patient's throat. Then a special transducer is placed inside the throat. From there, the sound waves are aimed at the heart.

What is involved in preparation for the test?
A person should request specific instructions from his or her doctor.

What do the test results mean?
A normal echocardiogram displays normal heart chambers and valves. It also shows normal heart movement.

An abnormal echocardiogram may indicate
  • heart valve disease
  • cardiomyopathy, or a weakening of the heart muscle
  • fluid in the sac around the heart
  • blood clots in the heart
  • other heart abnormalities
Author: David T. Moran, MD
Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia
Last Updated: 1/10/2001
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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