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All You Need to Know about Echocardiogram

Overview

The primary function of our heart is to pump blood to all parts of the body. When the heart’s function gets disturbed, doctors suggest an echocardiogram. The test helps us understand our heart’s behaviour and seek treatment if any abnormality in its functions is detected.  

What do we Need to Know About Echocardiograms?

Echocardiogram uses the technology of high-frequency sound waves to assess the shape and size of the heart. It evaluates the functioning of our heart by producing colour images of the heart and its valves.

Through this test, doctors can figure out the following:

  • Overall condition of the heart
  • Heart diseases like valve disease, myocardial disease, pericardial disease, cardiac masses, etc.
  • Congenital heart defects before birth (fetal echocardiogram)
  • Blood clots in the heart, damaged heart valves, endocarditis, enlarged heart chambers, etc. 
  • Working of medical or surgical devices

There are Various Types of Echocardiogram. 

Transthoracic echocardiogram

It is a simple test in which the sonographer spreads gel on a device called a transducer, aiming an ultrasound beam through the chest to your heart. The transducer records sound wave echoes from your heart. A computer converts these echoes into moving images on a screen (monitor).

Transesophageal echocardiogram

  • It is used when a standard echocardiogram test fails to generate accurate results. 
  • A flexible tube having a transducer is guided down your throat and into oesophagus (the tube connecting your mouth to your stomach).
  • The transducer records sound wave echoes from your heart.
  • A computer converts these echoes into detailed moving images of the heart, which your doctor can view on a screen/monitor.

Doppler echocardiogram 

It helps in measuring the speed and direction of the blood flow in your heart.

Stress echocardiogram

A stress echocardiogram is recommended to check for coronary artery problems. However, an echocardiogram cannot provide data about any blockages in the arteries of your heart. In a stress echocardiogram, Ultrasound images of the heart are taken before and immediately after you ride a stationary bike or walk on a treadmill

What are The Risks Associated With Echocardiogram?

A standard transthoracic echocardiogram does not involve any risk. You may experience some discomfort from the transducer which would be held very firmly against your chest. But, the firmness is needed to produce best images of your heart.

If you undergo a transesophageal echocardiogram, you may experience soreness in your throat for few hours afterwards. the tube may, although very rarely, scrape the inside of your throat. 

While conducting a stress echocardiogram, exercise or medication (not the echocardiogram itself) may temporarily cause an irregular heartbeat. Serious complications like a heart attack, are extremely rare.

How do you Prepare for an Echocardiogram?

Patients should take care of a few things before the test:

  • Patients can eat, drink and take medication.
  • In transesophageal echocardiogram, patients should eat 6 hours before the test.
  • Patients are advised to arrange for transportation after the transesophageal echocardiogram because of the medication during the test.

What can you Expect From an Echocardiogram?

The test may take around 40 minutes. The technician will ask you to partly undress. He/she will then apply a gel on your chest to help him/her access clearer pictures of the heart. 

The technician then uses the transducer and rubs against the patients’ skin to monitor the moment of the heart and its valves.

Transesophageal echocardiogram is different. The pipe attached with a transducer is inserted into the tube connecting your mouth to your stomach.

What can be the Possible Results of Echocardiogram?

Most of the time, the test delivers the following information:

Changes in your heart size: High blood pressure, damaged or weakened heart valves or other diseases may cause your heart’s walls to be abnormally thickened or the chambers of your heart to enlarge

Pumping strength. The resultant measurement from an echocardiogram include the percentage of blood that is pumped out of the filled ventricle with each heartbeat (ejection fraction) and the volume of blood pumped by your heart in one minute (cardiac output). A heart that is not pumping enough blood to meet the needs of your body can lead to symptoms of heart failure.

Valve problems. An echocardiogram measurement can help your doctor decide if your heart valves are open wide enough for adequate flow or blood or close fully to prevent blood leakage.

Damage to the heart muscle. An echocardiogram test helps your doctor understand whether all parts of your heart wall are contributing normally to the pumping activity of your heart. Certain areas of heart wall which move weakly could have been damaged during a heart attack, or could be receiving too little oxygen.

Heart defects. An echocardiogram test can also show problems with the chambers of your heart, abnormal connections between your heart and major blood vessels and complex heart defects that are present at birth.

A doctor will suggest the test to patients in the following cases:

  • Symptoms such as shortness of breath and chest pain
  • Problems related to valves or chambers of the heart
  • Congenital heart defects 

Request an appointment at Apollo Hospitals.

Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.

Conclusion

The heart plays a major role in regulating the function of the entire human body. However, people sometimes neglect heart-related ailments by not paying proper attention to the problems. The best solution for this is to consult and seek a doctor’s advice immediately. Different echocardiogram tests available will help doctors to assess your heart’s condition.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Are there any side effects of echocardiogram?

Echocardiogram is a test that doesn’t involve any notable side effects.

Will I need a fetal cardiogram?

A fetal cardiogram is generally suggested for unborn babies to detect congenital heart defects before birth.

Will it hurt while undergoing the test?

A standard echocardiogram test doesn’t hurt. However, a transesophageal echocardiogram makes a patient’s throat sore for some time.

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