An Echocardiogram examines how blood is pumped through the heart’s chambers and valves. Electrodes are used to assess the heart rhythm, and ultrasound equipment is used to see how blood travels through the heart. The doctor can use an echocardiogram to diagnose heart problems.
Why is it done?
Depending on the symptoms and the type of diagnosis that needs to be made, echocardiogram is classified into the following types:
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).
- 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.
It helps in measuring the speed and direction of the blood flow in your heart.
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
How do you prepare for an echocardiogram?
Food and medications
There are no special preparations required for a standard transthoracic echocardiogram. The patient can eat, drink, and take medications normally. But if the patient has transesophageal echocardiogram, the doctor will recommend the patient to have food several hours before the procedure.
Patients having transesophageal echocardiogram cannot drive back home after the procedure. This is because of the medications administered during the procedure. Therefore, it is required to arrange someone to take them back home.
What can you expect from an Echocardiogram?
Before the procedure
The patient can eat and drink normally as any other day before the procedure. All medications can also be continued as prescribed by the doctor. The patient can change to hospital gown before the test and are not advised to bring any valuables. The doctor will explain the procedure in detail beforehand.
During the procedure
The test takes place at an Echo Lab. The area to be tested will be supervised by a physician. The cardiac sonographer places three electrodes on the chest. These electrodes are attached to electrocardiograph (EKG) monitor to record the heart’s electrical activity. The patient will be asked to lie on the left side and a wand is placed on the chest. A gel is placed on the end of the wand to produce clear pictures. The sonographer changes the position of the patient several times during the exam and sometimes asks to hold the breath to get accurate reports.
After the procedure
Patients can resume normal activities after echocardiogram. If the test result is positive no further tests are required. If the results are serious, it is important to get advice from a doctor for more tests.
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 the 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.
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 includes 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
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)
Does an echocardiogram show heart failure?
Echocardiography is the most useful test conducted in patients with underlying heart diseases or patients showing symptoms of failure. Echocardiogram is helpful in diagnosis and identification of underlying heart failure in patients.
What does an echocardiogram show that an ECG does not?
|Echocardiogram determines the mechanical system of the heart.||ECG shows the electrical system of the heart.|
|It is used to produce a picture of the heart||It produces a wave-like diagram|
|A cool gel is applied on the patient’s chest and a transducer that releases sound waves are placed on the patient’s chest. These sounds echo back and produce a picture of the heart.||Electrodes are placed on the patient’s chest and the results are shown on a machine connected via wires attached to electrodes.|
Are there any side effects of echocardiogram?
Echocardiogram is a test that doesn’t involve any notable side effects.