An echocardiogram is a diagnostic test that uses ultrasound to create images of the heart. The procedure uses a transducer (a type of microphone) to turn electrical energy into sound waves. The sound waves bounce off of the heart tissue and are recorded for analysis.

Echocardiography is used to clearly show the heart's major structures and is often used to help detect and assess the following issues:

  • Cardiomyopathy -- enlargement of the heart
  • Congenital heart defects -- heart defects present at birth
  • Heart attack damage
  • Valve problems
  • Pericardial disease-- issue with the membrane surrounding the heart
  • Damage resulting from high-blood pressure (hypertension).

Echocardiography is also used to determine the performance of the heart muscle, blood vessels, and valves.