An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart. In an echocardiogram, ultrasound gel is applied to the skin above the heartand a microscope like instrument is applied to the chest wall. The technologist will move the instrument around in order to get the best possible view of the function of your heart. An echocardiogram enables a doctor to examine the working heart values, determines the size of your heart, and assess how well it is fuctioning. After a stroke this is important to determine if the heart was the source of the blood clot that caused the stroke.
The atria or forechambers of the heart cannot be seen well on echocardiography though the chestwall. A more sensitive technique to see the back of the heart is called transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE). This is more often used in young patients with rarer causes of stroke such as a patent foramen ovale or atrial septal aneurysm.