An echocardiogram, also known as an echo, is a non-invasive medical test that uses sound waves to create detailed images of the heart. It provides valuable information about the heart’s structure, function, and blood flow. By analyzing the echo images, doctors can diagnose and monitor various heart conditions such as heart valve problems, heart muscle abnormalities, and congenital heart defects. This safe and painless procedure plays a crucial role in evaluating cardiac health and guiding appropriate treatment plans.
What are the different types of echocardiograms?
Depending on the patient’s situation, the specialist may recommend one or more of the below echocardiograms.
- TransThoracic Echocardiography:
During trans thoracic echocardiography, a gel is applied to your chest, and a probe is placed on it. The probe emits ultrasonic sound waves to create images of the heart’s chambers. In Doppler mode, it can also display the direction of blood flow within the heart.
- TransEsophageal Echocardiography:
In trans esophageal echocardiography, a probe is inserted into your esophagus through a tube in your mouth. This method offers enhanced visualization of the heart valves. Doppler mode can be used to measure blood pressure and determine the direction of blood flow.
- Stress Echocardiography:
Stress echocardiography involves performing a transthoracic echocardiogram before and after moderate exercise to evaluate the heart’s function. This procedure helps assess how well the heart responds to physical exertion.
Indications of Echocardiogram
An echocardiogram may be ordered by a specialist if you experience symptoms such as
- Chest Pain
- Leg Swelling
- Dizziness, or shortness of breath.
It helps assess the functioning of the heart valves and chambers.
Results of Echocardiogram
- Heart Valves: The echo reveals whether your heart valves are functioning normally or if there are issues such as regurgitation, stenosis, or vegetation due to infective endocarditis.
- Defects in the Heart Septa: The sonographer can identify defects in the septum that separates the ventricles or atria. This information guides treatment decisions based on the size and location of the defect.
- Heart Size: Hypertension and valve diseases can lead to an enlargement of the heart, which can be observed through the echocardiogram.
Pumping Capacity of the Heart: The echocardiogram measures the ejection fraction (percentage of blood ejected by the ventricles per cycle) and cardiac output (amount of blood pumped by the ventricles per minute). Abnormal values may indicate the need for medication to support heart function.