An echocardiogram, commonly known as an echo, is a non-invasive cardiac test, and it is essentially an ultrasound of your heart. Among other complications, an echocardiogram can reveal any changes in the size of the heart, issues with the heart valves or damage to the heart muscle. It can be helpful to gain a complete understanding of how an echocardiogram is performed and why one may be ordered to calm any anxieties that exist about the test. The following is everything you need to know about what an echocardiogram is, how the process works and what the results might reveal.
What is an Echocardiogram?
An echocardiogram is a diagnostic testing procedure a cardiac care professional may utilize with patients who are having heart-related issues. There are different types of echocardiograms, and each one is used for a slightly different reason. A transthoracic echocardiogram, which is perhaps the most common type echocardiogram, measures the echos (or sound waves) of the heart and uses these echos to create moving images on a screen, which can be examined to determine the health and function of the heart. Other types of echocardiograms include a transesophageal, doppler and stress echo.
How an Echo Works
An echocardiogram records sound waves and projects an image of the heart's activity, which is used by the cardiac care profession to determine if there are any irregularities with the patient's heart. This procedure is most commonly performed in a doctor's office, in which the patient lies on a table with their shirt off. The doctor then places electrodes on the patient's body, which measure the heart's electrical activity. An ultrasound gel is also placed over the patient's chest, and a device known as a transducer is waived back and forth to see and record different areas of the heart.
The entire procedure is completely pain-free and completed within a few hours. After the procedure, the cardiac care professional can examine the results and make a treatment recommendation, then the patient can continue with the rest of their day without any restrictions.
Why an Echocardiogram Might Be Needed
There are several different reasons why a cardiac care professional might perform an echo. In some instances, an echo may be ordered even when the patient is healthy and does not have any noticeable signs of a heart condition. In other instances, an echocardiogram may be needed for the following reasons:
- Determine the cause of heart-related symptoms
- Diagnose congenital heart defects at an early age
- Ensure the heart valve and chambers are healthy
An echocardiogram is often ordered after symptoms of a heart-related issue are present, such as chest pain and shortness of breath. It may also be used to detect congenital heart defects, which are heart issues that exist at birth. An important distinction to make is that an echo is different than an electrocardiogram. An electrocardiogram is used to determine the function of a person's heart by measuring the heartbeat and blood flow, and an echocardiogram is a more complex procedure that often reveals more in-depth information.
How to Move Forward After an Echocardiogram
There are instances where an echocardiogram may confirm a healthy heart. In the event the echo does show signs of a heart issue, however, it is important for the patient to try and remain optimistic and focus on the positive, which includes the detection of the issue and the ability to treat it as soon as possible. An echocardiogram can reveal many different heart-related issues, including issues to the following areas of the heart:
- Heart muscle
- Heart chambers
- Heart valves
- Blood vessels
- Heart wall
An echocardiogram can detect the strength in which the heart pumps blood, changes in the size of the heart, issues with the heart chambers and many other common heart-related issues. The earlier a diagnosis can be made, the more effective treatment often is in preventing heart disease or heart failure.
Schedule an Appointment With Us
If you are experiencing any heart-related symptoms you are worried about, consult with one of our cardiologists today to find out how we can effectively and efficiently diagnose, treat and even prevent heart complications. Here at our office, we have a dedicated team of cardiac care professionals who are willing and able to work with you throughout the entire process and answer any questions you may have along the way.
For patients who are in need of an echocardiogram for diagnosis and treatment recommendation, we have all of the necessary resources to carry out the procedure effectively and ensure any issues are detected as early as possible so that effective treatment can be administered in a timely manner.
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