Echocardiography (echo) shows the size, structure, and movement of various parts of your heart. These parts include the heart valves, the septum (the wall separating the right and left heart chambers), and the walls of the heart chambers. Doppler ultrasound shows the movement of blood through your heart.
Your doctor may use echo to:
- Diagnose heart problems
- Guide or determine next steps for treatment
- Monitor changes and improvement
- Determine the need for more tests
Echo can detect many heart problems. Some might be minor and pose no risk to you. Others can be signs of serious heart disease or other heart conditions. Your doctor may use echo to learn about:
- The size of your heart. An enlarged heart might be the result of high blood pressure, leaky heart valves, or heart failure. Echo also can detect increased thickness of the ventricles (the heart's lower chambers). Increased thickness may be due to high blood pressure, heart valve disease, or congenital heart defects.
- Heart muscles that are weak and aren't pumping well. Damage from a heart attack may cause weak areas of heart muscle. Weakening also might mean that the area isn't getting enough blood supply, a sign of coronary heart disease.
- Heart valve problems. Echo can show whether any of your heart valves don't open normally or close tightly.
- Problems with your heart's structure. Echo can detect congenital heart defects, such as holes in the heart. Congenital heart defects are structural problems present at birth. Infants and children may have echo to detect these heart defects.
- Blood clots or tumors. If you've had a stroke, you may have echo to check for blood clots or tumors that could have caused the stroke.