Echocardiography is a special application of ultrasound that enables the cardiologist to observe the function of your heart valves and the contractions of your heart muscle. During an echocardiogram, ultrasound waves are projected onto the heart. The reflected ultrasound is “captured” by a transducer, and a computer translates the sound waves into an image. Most echocardiograms are performed by placing the ultrasound probe on a person’s chest. This is called a “transthoracic” or “surface” echocardiogram. This test is non-invasive and takes only a few minutes.
In some cases, a tranesophageal echocardiogram is performed. With this type of echocardiogram, the ultrasound probe is inserted into the esophagus through the mouth. Because the esophagus is very close to the back of the heart, this sort of echocardiogram provides excellent images of the heart and its valves.