Echocardiograms (echoes) are tests that use sound waves to create a picture of the heart. During an echo, a special device called a transducer — which looks like a microphone — sends and detects sound waves as they bounce off tissue, and sends this information to a computer. The computer uses this data to create a picture of the heart.
The University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital echocardiography experts perform many types of echo procedures, including:
- Transthoracic echocardiography: The most common type of echo. It's a noninvasive test, performed by placing the transducer on the chest.
- Stress echocardiography: A stress echo is a transthoracic echo performed during exercise to assess heart function under exertion. In most cases, patients don't actually exercise — they're given special drugs that increase the heart rate and change blood flow to imitate how the heart would react to exercise.
- Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE): TEE involves inserting a special type of transducer in the back of the throat (esophagus) to get a closer look at the heart.
- Intracardiac echocardiography: Intracardiac echoes are performed using special transducers that are thin enough to be threaded into the heart during a catheterization procedure. Intracardiac means "inside the heart."
- Intravascular echocardiography: Like intracardiac echoes, intravascular echoes are performed during a catheterization procedure. This test examines the inside structure of large blood vessels.
- Intra-operative echocardiography: An intra-operative echo is an echocardiogram performed during a surgical procedure. This can be a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) or an epicardial echocardiogram, which means the transducer is placed directly on the heart.
- Fetal echocardiography: Fetal echocardiography is an echo of a fetal heart.
- 3D echocardiography: This advanced technique allows doctors to see the heart in three dimensions, just as a surgeon would see it. Physicians at UChicago Medicine pioneered this 3D technology and defined how 3D echo can be used to distinguish between normal and abnormal hearts.
Comer Children's pediatric lab is accredited by the International Association of Cardiologists. All echoes are reviewed and interpreted by a pediatric cardiologist, with same day final reporting of all echoes.