Synonyms: Cardiac echo, Echo

Medical Specialties: Cardiology, Internal medicine

Clinical Definition

An echocardiogram is the record of images and other data obtained through use of ultrasound technology in the investigation of the heart and great vessels, and for the diagnosis of cardiovascular lesions. 

In Our Own Words

Echocardiography, or echo, is recorded imagery that utilizes ultrasound technology to create moving pictures of the heart, showing the chambers and valves at work. In stress echocardiography, the patient will exercise or be given a drug called dobutamine to make the heart stressed (work harder) while the ultrasound images are gathered. These are then compared to the images of the heart when the patient is at rest.

Changes in the way the heart moves under stress can indicate coronary heart disease. In people already diagnosed with heart disease, an echo might be performed to get a better sense of a patient’s level of risk. Or, prior to surgery, an echo may be needed to confirm the heart is healthy enough for surgery. 

Relevant Conditions
  • Heart disease
  • Heart valve disease
  • Heart failure
Common Types
  • Transthoracic echo
  • Trans esophageal echo
  • Stress echo
  • 3D echo
Share this article
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH). Echocardiogram in PubMed Health. Accessed June 2013.
  • University of Maryland Medical Center. Stress echocardiography. Accessed June 2013.
  • NIH. Echocardiogram. Accessed June 2013.
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