What is it?
Echocardiography uses sound waves to produce an image of the heart and to see how it is functioning. Transthoracic echocardiography (TTE or stress echo) lets doctors see the wall motion of the heart's pumping chambers before and after exercise.
How does it work?
Echocardiography uses high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) that can provide a moving picture of the heart. The sound waves are delivered through the body with a device called a transducer. The sound waves bounce off of the heart and return to the transducer as echoes. The echoes are converted into images on a television monitor to produce a dimensional picture of your heart.
Reasons for a Transthoracic Echocardiogram
The test can show if certain areas of the heart muscle are not getting enough oxygen-rich blood. Patients with coronary artery blockages may have minimal or no symptoms during rest.
A stress echo is generally done when a physician wishes to confirm or rule out the presence of coronary artery disease. A stress echo is also performed in patients who have disease involving the heart muscle or valve, or if a patient is having inappropriate shortness of breath and a cardiac cause is suspected.
What to expect
The entire test takes 1 1/2 to 2 hours including the preparation, echo imaging and stress test. The patient will be placed on a treadmill and after the heart has reached a certain rate during exercise on a treadmill or stationary bike, the patient will be asked to lie down on an examination table. Next, the technician will put a thick gel on the chest, right above the heart, to use the transducer to send and receive the sound waves. As the transducer is moved across the chest, the patient may be asked to breathe in or out or to hold their breath briefly during the test.