Transthoracic Echocardiography

What is a Transthoracic Echocardiogram (TTE)?

An echocardiogram is a test that uses sound waves to create pictures of the heart. An echocardiogram does not expose you to radiation.

Why is this test performed?

This test is done to evaluate the valves and chambers of the heart from the outside of your body. The echocardiogram can help detect:
-Abnormal heart valves
-Abnormal heart rhythms
-Congenital heart disease
-Damage to the heart muscle from a heart attack
-Heart murmurs
-Inflammation (pericarditis) or fluid in the sac around the heart (pericardial effusion)
-Infection on or around the heart valves (infectious endocarditis)
-Pulmonary hypertension
-Ability of the heart to pump (for people with heart failure)
-Source of a blood clot after a stroke or TIA

How is this test performed?

A trained sonographer performs the test. A cardiologist interprets the results.
An instrument called a transducer is placed on your ribs near the breast bone and directed toward the heart. This device releases high-frequency sound waves. Images will be taken at other locations around the chest as well. The transducer picks up the echoes of sound waves and transmits them as electrical impulses.
The echocardiography machine converts theses impulses into moving pictures of the heart. Still pictures are also taken. A Doppler echocardiogram records the motion of blood through the heart. An echocardiogram allows doctors to see the heart beating. It also shows the heart valves and other structures.

What should I expect during this test?

You will need to take off your clothes from the waist up and lie on an exam table on your back. Electrodes will be placed on your chest to monitor your heart beat. A gel is spread on your chest and the transducer will be moved over your skin. You will feel a slight pressure on your chest from the transducer. You may be asked to breathe in a certain way or to roll over onto your left side.

How do I prepare for this test?

No special steps are needed before a TTE test.

Are there risks associated with a TTE?

There are no known risks from an external TTE test.