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Echocardiogram - Heart Ultrasound

Echocardiograms are used to assess the heart’s structures and functions. There are different types of echocardiography including echo, cardiac ultrasound, ultrasonography or cardiac Doppler. The team at Banner Health are experts at taking and assessing any type of echocardiogram.

What Is an Echocardiogram?

Echocardiograms use sound waves to produce images of the heart. These images help your doctor see your heart beating, pumping blood and help them identify heart diseases. There are several different types of echocardiograms, all of which are low-risk procedures.

When Is an Echocardiogram Used?

Your doctor may recommend an echocardiogram for any of the following:

  • Detect congenital heart defects before birth (fetal echocardiogram)
  • Check for problems with the chambers or valves of the heart
  • Check if symptoms, like chest pain or shortness of breath, are caused by heart problems

Echocardiograms are performed by placing a transducer on the chest and aiming it at the heart. The transducer then transmits and receives sound waves that bounce off the heart and produce a picture of the heart. In some cases, images of the heart may not be clear due to certain disorders. In these cases, a transesophageal cardiogram may be used. For this test, the patient’s throat is numbed, and the transducer is placed inside the throat where the sound waves are then aimed at the heart.

What Can I Expect from an Echocardiogram?

Depending on what your doctor needs to see, there are a few different types of echocardiograms, each with different procedures.

M-Mode Echocardiography

This simple type of echocardiography produces an image similar to a tracing, rather than a picture, of the heart structures. M-Mode echocardiography is useful when it comes to measuring heart structures, like the pumping chambers, the size of the heart and the thickness of the heart’s walls.

Doppler Echocardiography

Doppler echocardiography is used to measure and assess blood flow through the heart’s chambers and valves. This measurement is taken by assessing the amount of blood pumped out with each beat – this amount is an indication of the heart’s functioning.

This type of echocardiography can detect an abnormal flow within the heart, which could indicate problems. These problems can include an abnormal opening between heart chambers, a problem with one or more of the heart’s valves, or a problem within the heart’s walls.

Color Doppler

A color Doppler echocardiogram uses different colors to designate the direction of blood flow to simplify the interpretation of Doppler images.

2D (Two-Dimensional) Echocardiography

This technique is used to see the motion of the heart structures. A 2D echocardiogram will show the motion of the heart’s structures in real-time. This helps the doctor look at the various heart structures at work and evaluates them.

3D (Three-Dimensional) Echocardiography

This type of echocardiogram generates three-dimensional movies of the beating heart.

Stress Echocardiograms

This echocardiogram technique looks at what happens to the heart during a period of stress, produced either by medications or exercise. Stress echocardiograms are examined during periods of stress and are compared to a resting echocardiogram.

How Do I Prepare for an Echocardiogram?

Typically, if you’re having an echocardiogram done, Banner recommends:

  • Wearing comfortable clothes
  • Not eating or drinking anything for three to four hours before the test

Depending on the type of echocardiogram being performed, your doctor may have additional instructions for you to follow. Contact your Banner Health doctor with any questions prior to an echocardiogram.

Where Are Echocardiograms Done?

Echocardiograms locations can vary. Echocardiograms are performed at a Banner Health hospital, in the office of your cardiologist or in a clinic.

Depending on the results of your echocardiogram, additional tests or procedures may be scheduled to gather further information.

The team at Banner is always ready to answer any questions you may have during any stage of your echocardiogram procedure.

Find an Imaging Location Near You

Whatever your need, your doctor can refer you to one of our conveniently located free-standing imaging centers or one of our hospitals.