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Maine Heart Center - Echocardiography

An echocardiogram, or echo of the heart, is a painless test that uses high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to get a picture of the heart. The sound waves bounce back from the heart chambers and valves, producing images and sounds that detect damage and disease.

Click here to see images of the heart.

The procedure is noninvasive and painless. A conductive gel is applied to the chest. The technician then moves a small device called a transducer to the appropriate points and a picture of the area is transmitted to a video monitor. It may be saved on tape or stored in a computer.

There are many different types of echocardiograms, including:

  • One-dimensional
  • Two-dimensional
  • Doppler ultrasound, which computes the blood's velocity in the heart. A Doppler adds color in order to perceive the flow patterns more clearly
  • Stress echocardiogram, which is performed while the patient exercises on a treadmil or stationary bicycle. This may reveal an inadequate blood supply to selected areas of the heart muscle
  • Chemical stress echocardiogram, which is used with patients who are unable to perform physical activity. Although the patient is lying down for this procedure, the drug causes the heart to react as if the person were exercising

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