An echocardiogram checks how your heart’s chambers and valves are pumping blood through your heart. An echocardiogram identifies functional and structural abnormalities that cannot be detected by an EKG, such as congenital coronary artery anomalies, heart valve abnormalities, holes in the heart muscle, weakened heart muscle, and abnormal pressures within the heart chambers and lungs.

Doctors can use echocardiograms to:

  1. determine how well the heart is pumping blood
  2. assess the reasons for an abnormal electrical test of the heart, called an electrocardiogram (EKG)
  3. diagnose heart disease — including weak pumping or stiffening of the heart muscle, leaky or blocked heart valves, and chamber enlargement — in adults
  4. locate blood clots or tumors
  5. assess the pressure in the heart to diagnose a condition called pulmonary hypertension
  6. identify congenital heart abnormalities in infants and young children
  7. monitor how well the heart responds to different heart treatments, such as heart failure medications, artificial valves, and pacemakers

A doctor will order an echocardiogram if they suspect that someone has heart problems. Signs and symptoms that may indicate a heart condition include:

  1. An irregular heartbeat
  2. Shortness of breath
  3. High or low blood pressure
  4. Leg swelling
  5. Abnormal EKG results
  6. Unusual sounds between heartbeats, known as heart murmurs

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