What is echocardiography?

Echocardiography is the ultrasound imaging of the heart. The device used for echocardiography is called and echocardiograph. An imaging probe known as transducer is used to send ultrasound (high frequency sound waves above the audible range) beams to the heart and receive the echo. It has its origin from SONAR (sound navigation and ranging) used for tracking underwater torpedoes and submarines. The beam scans the heart just like a torch light being swept across a dark room. From the echo received, the computer algorithm of the echocardiograph can exactly locate the depth and size of the structures within the heart which are reflecting the sound beam back. Blood usually does not give back much echo and is hence seen as black in the usual echocardiogram. Using high frequency transducers it is possible to get high resolution images of the heart valves, their movements, various chambers and blood vessels of the heart and their movement. Real time imaging of the heart is possible even at the bedside small hand held devices. Portable echocardiographs appear like a laptop while the regular echocardiographs have multiple transducers of varying frequency and are typically used in a stationary location (echocardiography laboratory, echo lab).