What is an echocardiogram?
An echocardiogram (echo) is a graphic diagram of the heart’s movement. During an echo test, ultrasound (high-frequency sound waves) from a pointer held stick placed on your chest provides images of the heart valves and chambers and helps the sonographer assess the pumping action of the heart. Echo is often joint with doppler ultrasound and colour doppler to assess blood flow through the heart valves.
Why is an echocardiogram performed?
The test is used to:
- Assess your overall heart function
- Regulate the presence of many types of heart disease, such as valve disease, myocardial disease, pericardial disease, infective endocarditis, cardiac masses, and congenital heart disease.
- Follow the growth of valve disease over time
- Evaluate the efficiency of your medical or surgical treatments
Why do I need an echocardiogram?
Your doctor may order an echocardiogram to:
- Look for heart disease
- Manage heart valve disease over time
- See how well medical or surgical treatments are occupied
The reason why it is done?
Your doctor may suggest an echocardiogram to:
- Check for difficulties with the valves or chambers of your heart.
- Check to see if heart problems are the cause of symptoms like shortness of breath or chest pain.
- Finding congenital heart defects before birth (fetal echocardiogram)
- The type of echocardiogram you have to be contingent on the information your doctor needs.
In this type of standard echocardiogram:
- A technician (sonographer) feasts gel onto a device (transducer).
- The sonographer presses the transducer firmly against your skin, directing an ultrasound beam through your chest toward your heart.
- The transducer records the echoes of the sound waves from your heart.
- A computer changes the echoes into moving images on a monitor.
If your lungs or ribs block your view, you may need a small amount of an enhancing agent injected through an intravenous (IV) line. The ornamental agent, which is generally safe and well-tolerated, will make the structures of your heart show up more clearly on a monitor.
If your physician wants more detailed imageries or it is difficult to get a clear image of your heart with a standard echocardiogram, your doctor may recommend a transesophageal echocardiogram.
In this procedure:
- Your throat will be numb and medicine will be given to help you relax.
- A flexible tube containing a transducer is guided down the throat into the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach (esophagus).
- The transducer records sound waves echoes from your heart.
- A computer converts the echoes into full moving images of your heart, which your doctor can view on a display.
Sound waves alteration pitch when they bounce off blood cells that move through the heart and blood vessels. These changes (Doppler signals) can help your doctor measure the speed and direction of blood flow in your heart.
Doppler methods are generally used in transthoracic and transesophageal echocardiograms. Doppler techniques can also be used to monitor blood flow and blood pressure problems in the arteries of the heart, which traditional ultrasound may not detect. The blood flow displayed on the monitor is coloured to help your doctor identify any problems.
Some heart problems, particularly those that affect the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle (coronary arteries), occur only during physical activity. Your doctor may mention a stress echocardiogram to check for coronary artery problems. However, an echocardiogram cannot provide information about blockages in the arteries of the heart.
In a stress echocardiogram:
- Ultrasound pictures of your heart are taken before and immediately after walking on a treadmill or riding an exercise bike.
- If you are incapable to exercise, you may receive an injection of medicine to make your heartbeat as hard as if you were exercising.
What are the risks?
- An echo can’t hurt you.
- An echo fixes not hurt and has no side effects.
How do I prepare for the echo?
You don’t have to do anything special. You can eat and drink before the test as you normally would.
“While I was lying on my side, the technician asked me to move a little while moving the wand around my chest. It was really easy and it didn’t hurt one bit! “.
What happens during the echocardiogram?
Echo tests are performed by specially trained technicians. You may be tested in your doctor’s office, an emergency room, an operating room, a clinic, or a hospital room. The test takes about an hour.
- You lie on a table and a technician places small metal discs (electrodes) on your chest. The discs have cables that connect to an EKG machine. An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) tracks your heartbeat during the test.
- The room is dark so your specialist can better see the video monitor.
- Your technician places gel on your chest to help the sound waves pass through your skin.
- Your technician may ask you to move or hold your breath briefly to get better images.
- The probe (transducer) is passed through your chest. The probe crops sound waves that bounce off your heart and “echo” back to the probe.
- Sound waves are transformed into images and displayed on a video monitor. The images on the video monitor are recorded so that your doctor can view them later.
“The physician had a portable machine that he brought to my hospital bed. He turned the camera and stopped it several times so he could show me the images of my heart. I could see the valves in my heart opening and closing. ”
What happens after the echo?
- Your technician will help you clean the gel from your chest.
- Your doctor will speak with you after observing your echo images and discuss what the images show.
An echocardiogram is an outpatient or consultative procedure. Electrodes are placed on the chest wall to monitor the heart rate and rhythm. The lights in the room can be dimmed to help view the images on the computer monitor. If a contrast medium is used, an IV will need to be started.
In the transthoracic echocardiogram, it will be necessary to expose the patient’s chest. The technician will press the transducer or probe firmly against the chest wall to obtain images of the heart. The patient may be asked to roll onto their left side and take a deep breath to help the probe better “see” the heart. The patient will be monitored due to the need for IV sedation.
A heart monitor and an oxygen monitor will be put on; Supplemental oxygen is usually provided through tips placed in the nose and an IV is started. Once sedated, the cardiologist will pass a tube, with the transducer at its tip, through your mouth and place it in the esophagus at a level close to the heart. The patient may or may remember the procedure because many of the sedative medications have an amnesic effect; but once the patient is fully awake, they can be discharged home with a companion.
How the test will feel?
During the exam:
- You will remove your clothing from the waist up and lie on your back on an exam table.
- Electrodes will be located on your chest to monitor your heartbeat.
- A small amount of gel will be spread on your chest and the transducer will move over your skin. You will feel a slight pressure on your chest from the transducer.
- You may be asked to breathe in a certain way or to roll over on your left side. Sometimes an unusual bed is used to help you stay in the proper position.
- If you are having a TEE, you will receive some sedative (relaxant) medications before the tube is inserted, and numbing liquid may be sprayed on the back of your throat.
- Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE)
- Echocardiogram – transthoracic
- Doppler ultrasound of the heart
- Superficial echo
Other types of echocardiogram
There are also several other types of echocardiography that can be done:
- Dissimilarity echocardiogram, in which a harmless substance called a contrast agent is injected into the bloodstream before an echocardiogram is performed; this substance shows up clearly on the scan and can help generate a better image of your heart
The type of echocardiogram that will be done depends on the heart condition being evaluated and how detailed the images need to be. For example, a stress echo may be suggested if your heart problem is caused by physical activity, while the more detailed images produced by a TOE may be more helpful in helping to plan heart surgery.