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How does echocardiography work?

The echocardiogram is created using an ultrasound machine connected to a microphone-shaped transducer, which is placed near the part of the anatomy to be examined.  The ultrasound machine emits sound waves that are too high for the human ear to hear (ultrasounds). These sound waves pass through the body and are reflected back to the transducer. The speed of transmission depends on the density of the objects encountered.  These differences allow the machine to analyze the reflected sound waves and determine the sizes, shapes, and movements of the internal objects. This information is presented on a monitor screen as a moving image of the internal body structures.  This is recorded and still images may be printed from it.

The types of echocardiogram include M-mode, or one dimensional views, which allow the heart chambers to be accurately measured, 2-D (two dimensional) views, which show a cross-section of the beating heart including valves, chambers, and major blood vessels, and Doppler views, which show colors that reflect the direction and velocity of blood flow. Recently, 3-D echocardiography has become available, allowing more complete, real-time visualization of cardiac anatomy and function.