Echocardiogram at Mercy


Echocardiogram (ECHO)

The highly skilled cardiologists of The Heart Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland utilize echocardiograms in the diagnosis of cardiovascular disease. Echocardiogram test results are helpful in the development of a comprehensive cardiac care plan.

What is an Echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram is a scan of the heart, using sound waves to create a picture of your heart as it pumps. It is a procedure that shows the size, shape and overall function of your heart while it pumps blood to the body.

An echocardiogram may be used to diagnose heart issues such as arrhythmias, cardiomyopathy, heart defects, valve issues, blood clots and problems with blood flow during stress.

Types of Echocardiogram Tests

There are a few different types of echocardiogram tests. All varieties use sound waves to create an image of your heart:

  • Transthoracic Echocardiogram (more commonly known as an echocardiogram or ECHO)
  • Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE)
  • Stress Echocardiogram

Your doctor will work with you to determine the appropriate type of echocardiogram for you.

How are Echocardiogram Tests performed?

The cardiologists at Mercy offer the following types of echocardiogram tests:

Transthoracic Echocardiogram (ECHO) – A sonographer or doctor will apply gel to your chest to help sound waves (ultrasound) travel to your heart. A transducer is placed on top of the gel and the sonographer moves the transducer around your chest to take pictures of your heart. The sonographer might ask you to hold your breath for a moment, or turn onto your side to improve the quality of the pictures.

Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE) - A special spray will be used to make your throat numb. Small patches (EKG electrodes) will be placed on your chest so that an EKG monitor can be used during the test. Medicine to help you relax will be given through an intravenous (IV) needle in your hand or arm. Then the doctor will guide a thin, flexible tube through your mouth and down into the food tube (esophagus). A special probe (transducer) on the end of the tube will collect data to create images of your heart in action.

When the necessary pictures have been obtained the probe and tube will be removed. A short period of recovery will follow until you no longer feel sleepy.

Stress Echocardiogram – Similar to a transthoracic echocardiogram, a transducer is placed on the chest to take pictures of the heart. However, you will walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike while the echocardiogram is performed. In some cases, a doctor will recommend using a medication to increase the heart rate instead of physical activity. Both methods show how your heart functions under stress (when the heart beats faster).

Who should receive an Echocardiogram?

A doctor may recommend an echocardiogram if you are experiencing heart problems or symptoms of a heart problem. A doctor may also recommend an echocardiogram to determine if further testing is needed or to monitor an existing heart condition. Your doctor will work with you determine the appropriate type of echocardiogram for you.

The Heart Center at Mercy specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of heart disease, offering a comprehensive approach to the management of heart-related conditions.