Our heart is a two-stage electrical pump with four chambers and four valves. It functions to circulate blood throughout the body. The structure of the heart needs to be intact and the muscle needs to beat in coordination to ensure proper circulation of blood. An echocardiogram (EKG or ECG) is the most common ultrasound test that allows your cardiologist to evaluate your heart structure and the direction of blood flow within it.
This test is also called echocardiography or diagnostic cardiac ultrasound. An echo test uses high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to produce images of your heart’s chambers, valves, walls, and attached blood vessels. Your cardiology medicine doctor or cardiologist evaluates these images to assess heart function and identify heart disease.
Why Do People Need an Echocardiogram?
The purpose of an echo test is to assess your heart’s structure and check the overall function of your heart. Your doctor may recommend this non-invasive procedure to diagnose potential and establishing cardiovascular problems. Here are some of the reasons why an echocardiogram is performed.
- Assess the size of the heart and four chambers, and the function of the valves.
- Determine if the heart valves open and close correctly.
- Evaluate the pumping strength and movement of the heart.
- Measure how much blood the heart pumps and what percentage of blood is pumped out to the body with each heartbeat.
- Analyze how well the heart relaxes in between beats.
- Look for the heart valve disorder like narrowing of the heart valve (stenosis), blood leaking backward through valves (regurgitation), and tumor or infection of the valves (endocarditis).
- Check problems with the outer lining of the heart (pericardium), and with the large blood vessels that enter and leave the heart.
- Follow the progress of valve disease over time.
- Detect blood clots in the heart chambers and abnormal holes between the chambers.
- Identify abnormalities of the wall motion and the septum.
- Determine congenital heart defects before birth (fetal echocardiogram).
Measure the effectiveness of surgical or medical treatments.
What are The Types of Echocardiogram?
Transthoracic Echocardiogram — In this standard procedure, a hand-held device called a transducer is placed on the chest wall and transmits sound waves to the heart. The device records the signals echoes from the heart, which the computer converts into moving images on the screen for monitoring.
Transesophageal Echocardiogram — For more detailed images, your cardiology medicine doctor will insert the transducer through the throat into the esophagus. As the esophagus is located right next to the heart, clear images can be obtained without the interference of the chest wall and lungs.
Doppler Echocardiogram — Sound waves bounce off the red blood cells circulating through the heart chambers. The Doppler signals in this procedure help your cardiologist to assess the speed and direction of the blood flow in your heart.
Stress Echocardiogram — This type of echocardiogram is recommended to check for coronary artery problems. In this procedure, ultrasound images of the heart are taken just prior or immediately after the exercise. If you are unable to exercise, contrast may be injected to make your heart respond as if exercise is occurring.
How Should You Prepare for an Echo Test?
No special preparations are needed for a transthoracic echocardiogram. You can eat, drink, and take medications as you normally would on the day of the echo test. For transesophageal echocardiogram, you would be asked to not eat or drink for a few hours beforehand.
What to Expect During & After an Echocardiogram?
During the test, you lie on an examination table or bed and a cardiac sonographer will attach three electrodes (small sticky patches) on your chest. The electrodes are hooked to the electrocardiograph monitor to keep track of your heart’s electric current. The sonographer will place a transducer or probe on several parts of your chest which have a small amount to gel that improves the conduction of sound waves.
You may be asked to change positions several times and take deep breaths during the exam to help the probe better record images of sound waves echoes from your heart. The images are recorded and displayed on the video monitor for later examination by your cardiac medicine doctor.
After the echo test, your cardiologist will review the results and enter into your electronic medical record. If your echocardiogram is normal, you may be asked to resume your normal daily activities. If the results are concerning, your doctor may order further testing. The echocardiogram test results will provide information that can help your doctor of cardiology medicine in Brooklyn, NYC diagnose your heart function and structure, and further help decides the best treatment program.