An echocardiography test, also known as an "echo" test, is a non-invasive diagnostic imaging test that uses ultrasound waves to produce images of the heart's structure and function. It is a safe and painless procedure that can help diagnose a wide range of cardiovascular conditions.
During an echocardiography test, a technician or physician will apply a warm gel to the chest and then use a transducer, a handheld device that emits sound waves, to produce images of the heart. The sound waves bounce off the heart and produce images that can be seen on a monitor.
The test can provide detailed information about the heart's size, shape, and movement, as well as how well the heart is functioning. It can also help diagnose a variety of heart conditions, including heart valve disease, heart failure, and congenital heart defects. In addition, an echocardiography test can be used to evaluate blood flow through the heart and blood vessels.
There are several types of echocardiography tests, including transthoracic echocardiography (TTE), transesophageal echocardiography (TEE), and stress echocardiography. TTE is the most common type of echocardiography and is used to evaluate the heart's structure and function at rest. TEE is a more invasive test that uses a specialized probe that is passed through the esophagus to get closer images of the heart. Stress echocardiography is used to evaluate the heart's function during exercise or with medication that simulates the effect of exercise.
An echocardiography test is a safe and effective diagnostic tool that does not use ionizing radiation, unlike X-rays or CT scans. However, like all medical tests, it does carry some risks and limitations, and should only be performed when medically necessary and ordered by a qualified healthcare provider.