Transthoracic Echocardiogram (TTE)

A transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE), commonly referred to as an "echocardiogram" or "echo" is a non-invasive diagnostic ultrasound that allows Inova's specialists to look at the heart without X-rays or surgery. It is the most common type of echocardiogram.

After applying a small amount of gel, our technicians press a transducer (like a microphone) firmly against the chest and move it slowly to specific locations and angles. The transducer sends out ultrasonic sound waves at a frequency too high to be heard. As the transducer moves, ultrasonic sound waves move through the skin and other body tissues and echo off of the heart structures.

The transducer picks up the echoes and sends them to a computer that interprets them into an image of the heart walls and valves for later viewing and evaluation. Patients may need to lie on their side, breathe slowly or hold their breath as the technician moves the transducer around the chest to provide specific views of the heart. Small metal discs (electrodes), taped to the patient's arms and legs, record the patient's heart rate for the test duration. The test usually takes 45 to 90 minutes.

Images from the echocardiogram help to:

  • Determine heart muscle strength
  • Assess damage from previous heart attacks
  • Discover congenital heart disease and rhythm disorders
  • Evaluate many other heart function and valve problems

Learn more about Echocardiogram TTE tests, including what to expect before, during and after the test.