Test: Echocardiography

Echocardiography is a technique that uses ultrasound waves to image the interior of the heart. The test looks at the size and function of the heart and is used to diagnose disorders of the heart and the heart valves. The test is usually performed using an ultrasound transducer (probe) placed on the skin of the chest directly over the heart. In some cases, a small probe is passed down the oesophagus instead so that it is close to the back of the heart. A moving image of the beating heart with its valves and chambers is then produced. The test takes about 20 minutes and is painless.

During the procedure

A gel is placed on the skin of the chest, and an ultrasound probe is moved over the area. An image of the moving heart is displayed on a monitor screen and is also recorded.

Results

Echocardiography of the heart

This image shows structures inside the heart. The chambers and valves seen here are normal.

Doppler echocardiography

Different colours show variations in blood flow. Here, turbulent flow back into the left atrium indicates a mitral valve leak.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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