Echocardiography is a test that uses sound waves to produce live images of your heart. The image is an echocardiogram. This test allows your doctor to monitor how your heart and its valves are functioning.
Echocardiography is a test that uses sound waves to produce live images of your heart. The image is an echocardiogram. This test allows your doctor to monitor how your heart and its valves are functioning. The images can help them spot:
- Blood clots in the heart
- Fluid in the sac around the heart
- Problems with the aorta, which is the main artery connected to the heart
An echocardiogram is key in determining the health of the heart muscle, especially after a heart attack. It can also reveal heart defects in unborn babies. Taking an echocardiogram is painless. There are only risks in very rare cases with certain types of echocardiograms.
This test, often called an “echo," shows your hearts movement. It sends ultrasound waves that show pictures of your hearts valves and chambers. Those images let your doctor look at how well your heart is pumping.
Your doctor may order an echocardiogram for several reasons. For example, they may have discovered an abnormality from other testing or while listening to your heartbeat through a stethoscope. If you have an irregular heartbeat, your doctor may want to inspect the heart valves or chambers or check your heart’s ability to pump. They may also order one if you’re showing signs of heart problems, such as chest pain or shortness of breath.
How to Identify?
There are several different types of echocardiograms.
This is the most common type of echocardiography. It’s painless and non-invasive. A device called a transducer will be placed on your chest over your heart.
If a transthoracic echocardiogram doesn’t produce definitive images, your doctor may recommend a transesophageal echocardiogram.
A stress echocardiogram uses traditional transthoracic echocardiography.
A three-dimensional (3-D) echocardiogram uses either transesophageal or transthoracic echocardiography to create a 3-D image of your heart.
Fetal echocardiography is used on expectant mothers sometime during weeks 18 to 22 of pregnancy.
Echocardiograms are considered very safe. Unlike other imaging techniques, such as X-rays, echocardiograms don’t use radiation. A transthoracic echocardiogram carries no risk. There’s a chance for slight discomfort when the electrodes are removed from your skin. There’s a rare chance the tube used in a transesophageal echocardiogram may scrape the side of your oesophagus and cause irritation. The most common side effect is a sore throat. You may also feel a bit funny due to the sedative used in the procedure. The medication or exercise used to get your heart rate up in a stress echocardiogram could temporarily cause an irregular heartbeat. The risk of a serious reaction is reduced because the procedure is supervised.
What to Do?
Do the test, the results may reveal abnormalities such as:
- Damage to the heart muscle
- Heart defects
- Heart size
- Pumping strength
- Valve problems
If your doctor is concerned about your results, they may refer you to a cardiologist. This is a doctor who specializes in the heart. Your doctor may order more tests or physical exams before diagnosing you. If you’re diagnosed with a heart condition, your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan that works best for you.