An echocardiogram is an effective method of producing detailed images of structural abnormalities, blood circulation problems, and valve or blood vessel damage in the heart, the American Heart Association explains. By pinpointing functional or anatomical irregularities in the heart, doctors can diagnose conditions such as blood clots and tumors.
An echocardiogram, also known as a diagnostic cardiac ultrasound, is performed by transmitting high-frequency signals into the heart and recording the resulting sound wave patterns, according to the American Heart Association. A computer processes the patterns as images, allowing doctors to see accurate representations of the heart's size, shape and effectiveness at pumping. The pictures also show the anatomy and motion of the heart walls, the movement of blood through heart valves, and the presence of unhealthy growths on heart tissue.
Echocardiography is commonly used to locate the source of an irregular heartbeat, or murmur, measure the rate at which the heart pumps blood, or monitor the functionality of an artificial valve, WebMD states. Doctors may also suggest the test when looking for congenital heart defects and infections or treating patients suffering from unexplained chest pain. The procedure has four main variants. A transthoracic echocardiograms involves passing the transducer over the chest, while a stress echocardiogram is performed alongside an exercise test or injection of a heart stimulant. A transesophageal echocardiogram involves inserting a probe into the esophagus, and a Doppler echocardiogram captures images of blood circulation.