Echocardiography is now considered as important to office cardiology evaluations as electrocardiography has been for the past three decades. The USC Division of Cardiovascular Medicine has very active, state-of-the-art echocardiography laboratories both at Keck Hospital of USC and the LAC+USC Medical Center. Many referring community physicians rely on the sophisticated echocardiogram assessments our cardiology experts provide.

Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE)

A transthoracic echocardiogram is essentially an ultrasound of the heart. During a TTE, a transducer wand is moved over the skin of the chest, taking images of the heart through the chest wall. This allows for the comprehensive evaluation of heart condition and function and for assessment of tumors, ischemia (inadequate blood flow), and viability. The stress echocardiogram, which combines a treadmill stress test and a transthoracic echocardiogram, is an indispensable tool for ischemia analysis.

Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE)

In some cases, a patient’s build or a pre-existing condition may limit ultrasound transmission, so that a transthoracic echocardiogram cannot be used. For these patients, a transesophageal echocardiogram can be used to evaluate the basic function of the heart. During a TEE, a transducer is attached to the tip of a thin, flexible tube and inserted down the throat and into the esophagus. TEE plays a major role in the comprehensive assessment of aortic disorders, systemic emboli, and the heart valves, especially for patients with mitral regurgitation, mitral stenosis, aortic stenosis, or tricuspid stenosis. TEE is also a very valuable tool in evaluating the function and pathology of prosthetic valves as well as assessing left atrial thrombi (blood clots). In select cases, a dobutamine TEE can be performed to evaluate for ischemia. Injecting a patient with dobutamine increases heart rate and blood pressure so that the heart can be studied under stress conditions.

The echocardiography program includes the following services:

  • Comprehensive assessment of valvular and nonvalvular hemodynamics
  • Contrast echocardiography
  • Dobutamine stress echocardiography
  • Dobutamine transesophageal echocardiography
  • Exercise stress echocardiography
  • Intraoperative echocardiography
  • Myocardial dysynchrony imaging
  • Three-dimensional echocardiography
  • Tissue Doppler imaging
  • Transesophageal echocardiography
  • Transthoracic echocardiography