An echocardiogram is a test that uses ultrasound waves to examine the heart. Because it is a non-invasive test, it is a safe and painless way to help doctors diagnose a number of abnormalities of the heart. It will show:
- Size and shape of the heart: The images may be used to measure the size of the heart chambers and thickness of the heart muscle.
- Pumping efficiency of the heart: The images show the efficiency with which the heart pumps blood, as well as whether the heart is pumping at full strength or is weakened. The scans may also show whether the various parts of the heart pump equally.
- Valve abnormalities: An echocardiogram shows the shape and motion of the heart valves. It can reveal if a heart valve is narrowed or leaking and show how severe the problem is.
Other uses: The test may also detect the presence of fluid around the heart; blood clots, or masses inside the heart; and abnormal holes between heart chambers.