What is an echocardiogram?
An echocardiogram (echo) is a graphic diagram of a heartbeat. During the echo test, ultrasound (high-frequency sound waves) from a handheld rod placed on your chest provides images of the heart valves and chambers and helps the sonographer assess the pumping activity of the heart. Echo is often combined with doppler ultrasound and colour doppler to assess blood flow in the heart valves.
Different types of echocardiogram
● Transthoracic echocardiogram
- Transesophageal echocardiogram
- Doppler echocardiogram
● Stress echocardiogram
On this standard type of echocardiogram:
- The transducer records the echo of the sound wave from your heart.
- The computer converts the echoes into moving pictures on the monitor.
- A technician (sonographer) spreads the gel on a device (transducer).
- The sonographer presses the transducer against your skin and pushes the ultrasound beam through your chest to your heart.
If your lungs or ribs are blocking your vision, you may need to inject a small amount of the augmentation agent intravenously (IV). The enhancing agent, which is generally safe and well-tolerated, will make the structures of your heart more clearly visible on the monitor.
For this test, the transducer goes down your throat and into your esophagus (the swallowing tube that connects your mouth to your stomach). Because it’s closer to your heart, it can get a clearer picture. Do not eat or drink anything until 6 hours before the test. Take all of your medicines at regular intervals, with a sip of water if necessary. If you are using medicines or insulin for diabetes, ask your doctor or testing centre about this.
Before a transesophageal echocardiogram, a nurse places an intravenous line into a vein in your arm or arm to give you medicine. A technician will place EKG electrodes on your chest. They also place a blood pressure monitor in your hand and a pulse oximeter clamp on your finger to check your vital signs.
In addition to sound waves bouncing the visual structures of the heart, they also bounce red blood cells as they pass through the heart chambers. Using Doppler technology, an echocardiogram can estimate the speed and direction of blood flow, which can help increase the amount and quality of information available from the test.
Computer colour can be added to compliment the doctor on that information. Colour flow Doppler is routinely added to all echocardiography studies and is the same technique used for weather reports.
A doctor may order an echocardiogram as part of a stress test. Stress tests involve physical exercise, such as walking or jogging on a treadmill. During the test, the doctor monitors the heart rate, blood pressure, and electrical activity of the heart. A sonographer performs a transthoracic echocardiogram before and after exercise.
- Heart failure
- Coronary heart disease
- Ischemic heart disease
- Problems affecting the heart valves heart
What is the use of an echocardiogram?
The echocardiogram test is used for:
- To determine the presence of a variety of heart diseases such as valve disease, myocardial disease, pericardial disease, infective endocarditis, heart mass, and congenital heart disease.
- Follow the progression of valve disease over time
- Evaluate the effectiveness of your medical or surgical treatments
- Assess the overall function of your heart
What happens during the echo?
Echocardiogram tests are performed by specially trained technicians. Your exam may take place in your doctor’s office, emergency room, operating room, hospital clinic, or hospital room. The test lasts about an hour.
- The probe (transducer) is sent to your chest. The probe produces sound waves that bounce your heart and “resonate” again through the probe.
- You lie down on a table and a technician places small metal discs (electrodes) on your chest. The discs contain threads that hold the hook to the electrocardiograph. An electrocardiogram (ECG or ECG) tracks your heart rate during your test.
- Your technician will place a gel on your chest to allow sound waves to pass through your skin. The probe (transducer) is passed across your chest. The probe produces sound waves that bounce off your heart and “echo” back to the probe.
- The room is dark so your technician can see the video monitor well.
What are the risks of an echo?
This echocardiogram procedure is harmless and involves minimal risk. You may feel uncomfortable with the position of the transducer as it puts pressure on the surface of the body. For some, lying on the test table for the entire duration of the echo procedure can cause discomfort or pain.
You may have other risks depending on your specific health condition. Discuss any problems with your doctor before the procedure.
There are no known dangers of external TTE testing. TEE is an aggressive process. There is some risk associated with the test. These may include:
- Reaction to narcotics.
- Damage to the esophagus. This is very common if you already have a problem with your esophagus.