What is an echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram – also called an echo – is a type of ultrasound test that uses sound waves to produce images of the heart and indicates how well the heart is working. It allows the doctor to see the heart beating, along with the performance of the heart valves and other structures.

The test can help detect abnormal heart valves and rhythms, heart murmurs, damage to the heart from a previous heart attack and any inflammation or infection around the heart.

What happens during an echocardiogram?

During this test, an instrument sends and picks up sound signals put on the chest. The sounds (echoes) it picks up appear on a screen as a picture. A doctor usually performs the first echocardiogram on patients at resting stage. The doctor then performs a second echocardiogram where patients exercise either by walking on a treadmill or pedaling on an exercise bicycle until a target heart rate is reached or symptoms are experienced. The results will then be compared against the resting echocardiogram results.

Echo can be used as part of a stress test and with an electrocardiogram (ECG).