An echocardiogram is a medical test that uses ultrasound or sound waves to create a moving “real time” image to examine the heart. It involves no radiation and no injection of foreign substances into the body and therefore has little or no risk. It can be performed in a physician’s office or in the hospital. A sonographer places lubricant on the surface of the skin over the heart and rubs a device that sends sounds waves over the area, which are then bounced to varying degrees off of the heart tissue, and the amount, timing, pattern, and method of return of those sound waves back to the sensor reflect the structure, quality, and movement of the heart muscle and accompanying tissues. This allows “visualization” of the heart’s chambers, walls, valves, and the major blood vessels that exit from the heart. These images can be studied as they are happening, and they can be captured and recorded for a permanent record.
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