An echocardiogram is a painless, noninvasive test that uses sound waves to check the heart's structure, movements and blood flow. It is an important tool for checking heart valves and tracking heart conditions.

Three-dimensional (3D) echocardiography is an advanced technique that allows doctors to see the heart in three dimensions — just as a surgeon would see it. The University of Chicago Medicine is a national leader in 3D echocardiography and our physicians pioneered many of the 3D techniques used worldwide.

The echocardiography lab at UChicago Medicine performs more than 12,000 echo procedures annually. Our lab was the first in the Chicago area — and one of the first in North America — to gain accreditation from the Intersocietal Commission for the Accreditation for Echocardiography Laboratories (ICAEL).

Types of Echocardiograms

  • Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE): This is the most common type of echocardiogram. A technician places the ultrasonic transducer on the chest or abdomen to take moving images of the heart.
  • Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE): This semi-invasive test gives an even clearer picture of the heart. During this test, the patient is sedated and the probe, or transducer, is placed down the esophagus.
  • Exercise stress echocardiogram: During these tests, a patient uses a treadmill to assess how the heart functions during activity.
  • Dobutamine stress echocardiogram. This is an option for patients who can’t exercise. During this test, the patient receives medication that causes the heart to beat faster, as it does during exercise.
  • Intracardiac echocardiography (ICE): These are advanced tests performed by interventional cardiologists to “guide” them during procedures to fix valves or holes inside the heart. In ICE, doctors insert a tiny imaging tool inside the heart, using thin tubes called catheters. Our doctors have extensive expertise in performing ICE in a variety of patients.