A transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE) is a test that uses ultrasound (sound waves) to create images of your heart. TTE can determine how well your heart is functioning and identify causes of cardiac-related symptoms. The test is either noninvasive or minimally invasive, and you can resume your usual activities immediately afterward.
A transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE) is a test that uses ultrasound (sound waves) to create images of your heart. It’s the most common type of echocardiogram (echo).
The test helps healthcare providers see your heart, its four chambers, the four heart valves and nearby blood vessels.
Healthcare providers use TTE in many ways. The test can:
TTE can evaluate heart health by:
The test can identify causes of cardiac-related symptoms, such as:
TTE is useful to screen for, diagnose or follow up on specific medical conditions, including:
TTE is the most common type. It’s noninvasive (doesn’t insert anything into your body) or minimally invasive (involves a minor injection). TEE is invasive because a healthcare provider slides an endoscope down your esophagus.
TEE may be necessary after TTE if a healthcare provider needs clearer or more detailed images.
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A primary care provider or cardiologist usually orders TTE. A sonographer (technician trained to use ultrasound technology) performs the test and sends the results to the doctor.
Echocardiography uses ultrasound technology to send high-frequency sound waves through your body. The sound waves bounce off heart tissue and create “echoes.”
Computer technology uses those echoes to create images that represent what your heart looks like as it beats. An echo may also use Doppler ultrasound, which can show, measure and assess blood flow through your heart’s chambers and valves.
The test projects the moving images onto a screen so you and your healthcare provider can see them.
You don’t have to do anything to prepare for TTE. You can eat, drink and take any medications before the test.
Sometimes, before TTE, a healthcare provider will inject a contrast dye into your vein. It helps show blood flowing through your heart.
TTE takes about an hour. A sonographer or other healthcare provider will:
TTE is a noninvasive procedure, so your healthcare provider won’t sedate you.
Once the technician has all the necessary images, they’ll wipe off the gel and remove the electrodes. You should be able to go home right away and resume your normal activities, including driving yourself home.
There aren’t any risks associated with TTE. The test doesn’t use any radiation or electrical currents. Other than a brief pinch from an IV injection of contrast agent, the test shouldn’t cause any pain.
The technician who conducted the test will send a report to the healthcare provider who ordered the test. This process usually takes a day or two. Then, your healthcare provider will follow up with you to discuss the results, diagnosis, treatment plan or need for additional tests.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
A transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE) is a test that uses ultrasound to create images of your heart’s structure and function. Your healthcare provider will explain why you need the test and what the results mean.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/05/2022.
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