What is an echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram is a noninvasive (the skin is not pierced) procedure used to assess the heart’s function and structures. During the procedure, a transducer (like a microphone) sends out sound waves at a frequency too high to be heard. When the transducer is placed on the chest at certain locations and angles, the sound waves move through the skin and other body tissues to the heart tissues, where the waves bounce or “echo” off of the heart structures. These sound waves are sent to a computer that can create moving images of the heart walls and valves.

An echocardiogram may use several special types of echocardiography, some are:

2-D (two-dimensional) Echocardiography

This technique is used to “see” the actual motion of the heart structures. A 2-D echo view appears cone-shaped on the monitor, and the real-time motion of the heart’s structures can be observed. This enables the doctor to see the various heart structures at work and evaluate them.

M-mode Echocardiography

This, the simplest type of echocardiography, produces an image that is similar to a tracing rather than an actual picture of heart structures. M-mode echo is useful for measuring or viewing heart structures, such as the heart’s pumping chambers, the size of the heart itself, and the thickness of the heart walls.


Reference: Johns Hopkins Medicine n.d. “Echocardiogram” Accessed January 30, 2019