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What is an echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram (echo) uses sound waves to see the heart's structures and function. It’s also called a cardiac ultrasound. It is used to diagnose and assess many problems with the heart.

Why is an echocardiogram performed?

Your child’s doctor may use an echocardiogram to look at the structure and function of your child’s heart. An echocardiogram can show:

  • The strength of the heart's pumping ability
  • The size and shape of the heart and its walls
  • Any structural or functional problems with the heart valves, such as narrowing or leaking
  • Problems with the blood vessels that bring blood to and from the heart
  • Blood clots in the heart
  • Abnormal holes in the heart
  • Problems with the heart's lining

What can I expect during an echocardiogram?

Before an echocardiogram, a technician will attach small plastic adhesive patches (electrodes) to your child's chest to monitor the heart’s rhythm.

The technician will place gel on your child's chest and then place a small camera, called a transducer, on the gel. Your child will feel a slight pressure as the technician moves the transducer around his or her chest to get pictures of the heart. Once the echocardiogram is done, the technician will wipe the gel from your child's chest and remove the electrodes.

To get clear pictures, it’s important for children to be as still as possible during the procedure. In some cases, younger children may need to be sedated for the echocardiogram.

What are the different types of echocardiograms?

There are several types of echocardiograms, including:

  • Regular echocardiogram, which is done by taking pictures with a camera outside of the body while the child is lying on a bed.
  • Stress echocardiogram, used to examine what happens to the heart during a period of stress, produced either by medications or by exercise.
  • Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE), which is done by placing the camera inside the body. The child is sedated and a camera is placed into the esophagus, which lies directly behind the heart. TEE images provide higher-resolution images of certain parts of the heart.

How we approach echocardiograms

The Boston Children's Hospital Division of Cardiac Imaging perform about 25,000 echocardiograms each year, including transthoracic, transesophageal, stress, and fetal echocardiograms, utilizing the latest cardiac ultrasound techniques.

Our team also offers expertise in all imaging modalities, including:

We ensure that each patient receives the right test at the right time with the right technique. No matter what type of imaging test your child is having, our team specializes in kid-friendly care. All our clinicians are experienced in working with children and know how to make them feel comfortable during any type of imaging process.

Echocardiogram | Programs & Services