When to order an echocardiogram

Jane McCrohon, Rominder Grover



The past decade has seen dramatic advances in noninvasive cardiac imaging technologies. However, echocardiography remains the single most important and relevant diagnostic imaging tool in everyday general and cardiology practice. This article discusses the appropriate clinical application of this modality.

Key Points

  • Evaluation of ventricular function is the most common indication for echocardiography.
  • Echocardiography is useful for the evaluation of a cardiac basis for oedema and/or dyspnoea.
  • Echocardiography is used to identify the cause and severity of cardiac murmurs and monitor progression in established valvular disease.
  • Echocardiography is more sensitive than ECG for the assessment of left ventricular hypertrophy in systemic hypertension.
  • In patients with arrhythmia, echocardiography is used to assess for the presence of structural heart disease.
  • Echocardiography is useful in the initial evaluation of cardiovascular causes of chest pain.

    Picture credit: © Arno Massee/SPL.