Overview of Echocardiogram
An echocardiogram ("echo" for short) is a cardiac ultrasound. In cardiac care, ultrasound helps assess the condition of your heart. It uses a device called a transducer to transmit high-frequency sound waves through the body. As the waves bounce (or "echo") off structures in the body, the ultrasound transducer translates them into images on a monitor. Combined with cardiac Doppler testing (described below), an echo can also help measure your ejection fraction (EF), which is the amount of blood your heart pumps out with each beat.
During your echo, you'll be able to see a picture of your beating heart. The image shown here is enhanced by 3D technology.
There are several types of echocardiograms:
- Echocardiogram with bubble study: A bubble echocardiogram is the same procedure as an echocardiogram, except an IV is placed in the patient's arm. During certain portions of the imaging, saline with bubbles is injected into the vein. This enables the cardiologist to see if there is a tiny hole between the upper chambers of the heart known as a PFO (patent foramen ovale) or ASD (atrial septal defect). This test is often done in conjunction with a transcranial Doppler or when the patient is experiencing neurological symptoms such as migraines, stroke-like symptoms, etc.
- Cardiac Doppler: In this test, the ultrasound waves bounce off red blood cells moving within the heart chambers. This reveals the speed and direction of blood flow within your heart — and helps determine how well your heart valves are working.
- Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE): If you're having heart surgery — or if a standard echocardiogram produces poor images — your healthcare provider may order a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE). With TEE, a provider will numb your throat and guide a transducer into your esophagus (through your mouth) until it rests directly behind your heart. From this position, the transducer can obtain high-quality images of your heart from all sides.
- 3D echo: Some echocardiograms are enhanced with 3D technology so that the doctor can rotate the image to see the heart from multiple angles.
- Intracardiac echo (ICE) and intravascular ultrasound (IVUS): These ultrasounds use a catheter to give a view of the internal structures of your heart or coronary arteries. They may be done during cardiac catheterization.
- Stress echo: A stress echo is a standard echo that is performed during or after a stress test to compare views of your heart at work and at rest.
Echocardiogram In Depth
Learn more about echocardiograms from Intermountain's Patient Education Library:
Learn what happens (and what you need to do) before, during, and after your echocardiogram:
Where Do I Go?
Echocardiograms are performed in several places at the Heart Institute:
- Hospital-based clinic and lab (building #4): Your echo may be scheduled separately from your doctor's appointment in our hospital-based echo lab in building #4. Register on Level 1, and follow instructions on where your procedure will be done. Depending on your test, you may then need go to Level 1 or Lower Level 1.
- Cardiology and Heart Rhythm offices (building #2): Your echo may be part of your cardiology or heart rhythm appointment. Both offices are located in building #2, suites 510 and 520. You can also link to each office below to learn more:
If you have questions, please call us: 801-507-4701.