NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital's board certified cardiologists and certified technicians conduct several types of echocardiography ("echos") to create images of the heart, and unlike X-rays and some other tests, an echo doesn't involve radiation.
Transthoracic Echocardiography (TTE)
Transthoracic echo is the most common type of echocardiogram test. It's painless and noninvasive. "Noninvasive" means that no surgery is done and no instruments are inserted into your body.
You will have some sticky pads (electrodes) applied to your chest and connected to a machine. The technician will ask you to turn onto your left side, and will apply a warm gel to the device before applying it to the skin over your chest. The device sends special sound waves, called ultrasound, through your chest wall to your heart. As the ultrasound waves bounce off the structures of your heart, a computer in the echo machine converts them into pictures on a screen.
This test is used to detect abnormal heart valve function and poor pumping function of the heart, and to identify blood clots within the heart chambers or tumors in the heart.
Some heart problems, such as coronary heart disease, are easier to diagnose when the heart is working hard and beating fast.
Stress echo is done as part of a stress test. During a stress test, you exercise to make your heart work hard and beat fast. A technician will take pictures of your heart using echo before you exercise and as soon as you finish.
If you aren't well enough to exercise, a technician may perform a pharmacologic stress test instead, which means your doctor will give you medication to make your heart work harder without you having to exercise. Similar to the standard stress echo, with a pharmacologic stress echo, the doctor or technician will take pictures of your heart before and after the medication is administered.
Transesophageal Echocardiography (TEE)
With standard transthoracic echo, it can be hard to see the aorta and other parts of your heart. If your doctor needs a better look at these areas, he or she may recommend transesophageal echo (TEE). This test is particularly helpful to see signs of clots or tumors inside the chambers of the heart, and to see the severity of any valve defects.
During this test, the transducer is attached to the end of a flexible tube. The tube is guided down your throat and into your esophagus. This allows your doctor to get more detailed pictures of your heart.
The nurse at the Hospital will prepare you for the test and start an intravenous line (I.V.) After sedation, the physician will insert a tube, called a probe, through your mouth into the esophagus. Once the probe is in position, the physician is able to visualize your heart valves and the chambers of your heart. Your heart rate and blood pressure are monitored during the test.