What is an Echocardiogram?
An echocardiogram is a test that is used to examine a patient's heart using an ultrasound allowing your physician to see a cross section of the beating heart including the chambers, valves, and major blood vessels. Physicians use this test to evaluate parts of the heart in a noninvasive way. The image that is produced is much more detailed than a plain x-ray image. This test provides a two-dimensional display of the heart while it is beating. This test can be performed at a physician's office or in a hospital. An echocardiography is helpful in diagnosing if there is fluid in the pericardium.
How is an Echocardiogram performed?
During an echocardiogram and EKG is used to help with the measurement of various cardiac events such as the filling and emptying of the chambers. An echo transducer is used after a gel is applied to the patient's chest. An echo transducer is an instrument that sends out high-frequency sound waves directed towards the heart. The echoes created from the sound waves bounce off the heart and are transmitted into electrical impulses. These impulses are then converted into moving pictures of the heart onto a monitor. A Doppler probe is used to record the motion of the blood through the heart. In order to get different views of the heart, the tech will trace from different parts of the chest sometimes having the patient roll to their side or on their back. To obtain clear images, the patient may be asked to hold their breath or breathe slowly. The images are continually viewed on the monitor and will be recorded on a videotape to have a permanent document of the examination. Your physician will review the results and complete a final report.
What information does it provide?
The physician will look at the size of the chambers including the dimension or volume of the cavity and the thickness of the walls. An echocardiography can help your physician determine if the heart is pumping poorly. They can also identify if the structure, thickness, and movement of each valve is normal or abnormal and determine their severity.
Echocardiography is completely safe and there are no known risks when performing this test.
When do I get my test results?
Your doctor is not usually there during the test. Your test results will usually be reviewed from one to a number of days after the test has been completed. Test results are usually reviewed with the patient during a follow up visit with his or her doctor, over the phone, or sent to patient through mail. In some cases, physicians will contact their patient if any significant abnormal findings are found. If you are concerned or confused about the results, don't hesitate to call our office staff. They can usually clarify any questions you may have.