An echocardiogram uses ultrasound (sound waves) to take pictures of your heart. These pictures can be seen on a monitor and recorded, allowing your doctor to see how well your heart is working.

A stress echocardiogram is an exam that will allow your doctor to see how well your heart works when you are physically active. Typically, you will be asked to walk on a treadmill in order to increase your heart rate. If you can't exercise, you'll be given medicine that raises your heart rate without physical activity.

This test uses ultrasound to create images of the heart and coronary blood vessels, to show the speed and direction of blood flow within the heart. These images are helpful for checking heart-muscle strength, determining whether damage has occurred due to previous heart attacks, and looking for congenital heart disease and rhythm disorders. This test is also helpful in evaluating many heart valve problems.

A transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) is used by doctors to assess the overall function of the heart’s chambers and valves, determine the presence of many types of heart disease (such as valvular heart disease, myocardial disease, pericardial disease, cardiac masses and congenital heart disease), evaluate the effectiveness of medical or surgical treatments, and evaluate abnormalities of the left atrium. The patient is mildly sedated and a special ultrasound probe is placed down the esophagus to a position just behind the heart.

A 3-D echocardiogram provides the most realistic view of the heart from any angle without having to perform surgery. Rather than a flat image of the heart, this type of echocardiogram provides a 3-D image that shows the full anatomy of the beating heart, the working valves and the blood flow. Like a CT scan, the 3-D image also can be “sliced” to show multiple cross sections of the interior anatomy of the heart. This type of echocardiogram can be used both to diagnose heart conditions and defects, and to plan surgical procedures. It is an option that is available with either transesophageal or transthoracic echocardiograms.