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Echocardiogram - children

Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE) - children; Echocardiogram - transthoracic - children; Doppler ultrasound of the heart - children; Surface echo - children

An echocardiogram is a test that uses sound waves to create pictures of the heart. It is used with children to help diagnose defects of the heart that are present at birth (congenital). The picture is more detailed than a regular x-ray image. An echocardiogram also does not expose children to radiation.

How the Test is Performed

Your child's health care provider may do the test in a clinic, in a hospital, or at an outpatient center. Echocardiography in children is done either with the child lying down or lying in their parent's lap. This approach can help comfort them and keep them still.

For each of these tests, a trained sonographer performs the test. A cardiologist interprets the results.


TTE is the type of echocardiogram that most children will have.

The test allows the provider to see the heart beating. It also shows the heart valves and other structures.

Sometimes, the lungs, ribs, or body tissues may prevent the sound waves from producing a clear picture of the heart. In this case, the sonographer may inject a small amount of liquid (contrast dye) through an IV to better see the inside of the heart.


TEE is another type of echocardiogram that children can have. The test is done with the child lying under sedation.

How to Prepare for the Test

You can take these steps to prepare your child before the procedure:

How the Test will Feel

Why the Test is Performed

This test is done to examine the function, heart valves, major blood vessels, and chambers of a child's heart from outside of the body.

Your child may have an increased risk for heart problems due to an abnormal genetic test or other birth defects that are present.

The provider may recommend a TEE if:

Normal Results

A normal result means that there are no defects in the heart valves or chambers and there is normal heart wall movement.

What Abnormal Results Mean

An abnormal echocardiogram in a child can mean many things. Some abnormal findings are very minor and do not pose major risks. Others are signs of serious heart disease. In this case, the child will need more tests by a specialist. It is very important to talk about the results of the echocardiogram with your child's provider.

The echocardiogram can help detect:


TTE in children does not have any known risk.

TEE is an invasive procedure. There may be some risks with this test. Talk with your provider about risks associated with this test.


Campbell RM, Douglas PS, Eidem BW, Lai WW, Lopez L, Sachdeva R. ACC/AAP/AHA/ASE/HRS/SCAI/SCCT/SCMR/SOPE 2014 appropriate use criteria for initial transthoracic echocardiography in outpatient pediatric cardiology: a report of the American College of Cardiology Appropriate Use Criteria Task Force, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Heart Association, American Society of Echocardiography, Heart Rhythm Society, Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions, Society of Cardiovascular Computed Tomography, Society for Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance, and Society of Pediatric Echocardiography. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014;64(19):2039-2060. PMID: 25277848

Solomon SD, Wu JC, Gillam L, Bulwer B. Echocardiography. In: Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Tomaselli GF, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 14.

Webb GD, Smallhorn JF, Therrien J, Redington AN. Congenital heart disease in the adult and pediatric patient. In: Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Tomaselli GF, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 75.


Review Date: 1/1/2020  

Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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