An echocardiogram is a safe, non-invasive procedure used to diagnose cardiovascular disease. It uses high-frequency sound waves literally to see all four chambers of the heart, the heart valves, the great blood vessels entering and leaving the heart, as well as the sack around the heart. Echocardiography allows doctors to visualize the anatomy, structure and function of the heart. It can quickly diagnose the presence and severity of heart valve problems, as well as determine abnormal flow within the heart, which occurs with congenital heart disease.
Echocardiography can be used to determine causes for chest pain, establish a baseline for reference in tracking chronic heart conditions, evaluate the effects of a heart attack, diagnose narrowed or leaking heart valves, to determine the need for intervention, or as a follow-up to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment. Young children or infants could have echocardiography performed if there is suspected congenital heart disease.
The conventional echocardiogram usually performed is the transthoracic echo, which is performed by placing the probe on the outside of the chest wall with a gel-like substance to transmit sound waves into the body.
An echo takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes.