Children's Hospital Colorado
Heart institute
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Heart institute

Cardiac Imaging with Echocardiogram

The Cardiac Imaging Program at Children's Hospital Colorado performs state-of-the-art heart tests for babies, kids and teens. Our team of heart imaging specialists can find out more about your child's heart by using tests like echocardiogram (ECHO), fetal echocardiogram (fetal ECHO), three-dimensional imaging (3-D ECHO), and transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE).

Echocardiograms are performed in the cardiology clinic at our Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, South Campus in Highlands Ranch and at all Network of Care and Outreach Program locations.

We're also able to use telemedicine so that doctors outside of Denver (and even Colorado) can transmit these different types of echocardiographic studies to our team at Children's Hospital Colorado for review. This means that patients can now be examined closer to home and don't have to travel to our Denver Metro-area hospitals for these types of tests.

Echocardiogram (ECHO)

An echocardiogram (ECHO) is a non-invasive test that uses sound waves to create images of the heart – like an ultrasound of the heart. From this test, doctors can learn a great amount of information about the structure and the blood flow within the heart. An ECHO can show critical heart defects and structural or valve abnormalities in children of all ages. There is no known risk from exposure to ultrasound waves.

What to expect from an echocardiogram

  • Your child will need to lie very still for 30 to 45 minutes; in some cases, very small children may need to be sedated by one of our dedicated cardiac anesthesiologists.
  • A technician will put stickers on your child’s chest to monitor the heart rate, and your child will lie on his or her side or back for the test.
  • The technician uses a wand with gel on it to get the images of your child’s heart (exactly like the ultrasounds mothers get when pregnant). The room is dark and cozy, and your child is able to watch a movie while the test is being conducted.
  • Sometimes a doctor will come in and review the test or ask for more photos. This is not necessarily a sign that anything is wrong – sometimes they just need more information.

Fetal Echocardiogram (Fetal ECHO)

A fetal echocardiogram is a safe ultrasound study performed on a pregnant mother's abdomen to show the structure of an unborn baby's heart. It provides valuable information on the growth and development of the baby's heart and blood vessels. Using this test, doctors specialized in fetal cardiology are able to diagnose a baby's structural heart problems and heart rhythm problems before birth. Learn more about our Fetal Cardiology Program for pregnant moms.

Three-Dimensional Echocardiogram (3-D ECHO)

A three-dimensional echocardiogram (3-D ECHO) lets doctors analyze the heart's function by producing a virtual 3-D computer model of a child's heart. The 3-D ECHO has given us new and different ways to view the heart's anatomy that cannot be seen by standard echocardiogram.

What to expect from a 3-D ECHO

A 3-D ECHO can be done at the same time as a standard ECHO, either at your child's bedside or in our outpatient clinic. It can be performed in children of all ages.

Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE)

A transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) is a special type of ECHO test that is used to assess the heart's function. It can be used during heart surgery or catheterization to help a surgeon see results of their operation in real time.

What to expect from a TEE

A TEE is another way to perform an echocardiogram by going through a patient's esophagus. A TEE is done either during heart surgery in the operating room, or during a cardiac catheterization. Because the TEE is done while a patient is under anesthesia your child will not feel the test or even remember the procedure being done.

A TEE can be done in babies as small as four pounds. We also have a special three-dimensional TEE probe that allows detailed views of anatomy in older patients.