An echocardiogram is an ultrasound (“echo-”) imaging technology that is used to observe the heart (“cardio”). It uses sound waves that reflect off of your heart and thereby create a moving picture of your heart on a computer monitor.
This scan will enable your physician to obtain different views of your heart and to record your heart rhythm. Echocardiograms provide precise data and can detect cardiac problems, like cardiac tissue damage, enlarged chambers, fluid in the sac that surrounds the heart, blood clots, circulation issues, and dysfunctional valves.
An echocardiogram is a safe procedure that does not expose you to any radiation. Let’s talk about how physicians utilize echocardiograms, what happens during the test, how to understand its results, and where you can go in the Midlands for excellent doctors who can monitor your heart and keep you healthy.
What Is an Echocardiogram Used For?
Specifically, an echocardiogram is used to assess the heart’s function and structure. Echocardiograms can be used to:
- Examine the size of the heart
- Assess the efficacy of the heart contraction power
- Observe the health of its four chambers
- Monitor the function of the heart valves
- Analyze the state of the pericardium (the protective sac that envelops the heart)
- Evaluate the aorta
- Investigate the causes of abnormalities that were seen on an EKG (electrocardiogram)
- Detect heart disease, such as heart muscle weakness, dysfunctional valves, and enlarged chambers
- Detect blood clotting
- Assess pulmonary hypertension through measuring the pressure in the heart
- Detect congenital heart abnormalities
- Monitor the heart’s responsiveness to various treatments
It can also be used to assess cardiac output and ejection fraction. Cardiac output is a measurement of the blood amount pumped by the heart, while ejection fraction is a measurement of the percentage of blood sent out to the body with each beat.
What Happens During an Echocardiogram Procedure?
To prepare, your doctor may recommend that you avoid caffeine for 6 hours prior to the test, as it may cause heart rate elevation.
You will be asked to lie down on the examination table. If you are having a transthoracic echocardiogram, then the technician will apply a lubricant gel on your chest so the transducer can glide easily over your chest. Remember that this is an ultrasound scan, so it works in the same way.
The transducer sends out real-time sound waves which bounce off of your heart structures, to be collected by the transducer once again. These reflecting sound waves produce a live, moving image of your heart, which is displayed on a screen.
Other types of echocardiogram scans include the transesophageal echocardiogram, in which a tube is inserted into your mouth and down to the esophagus to take more close-up pictures of your heart. Another one is the stress echocardiogram, where the ultrasound images are captured before and after the scan to assess the coronary arteries and whether there are any blockages.
Interpreting the Results of the Scan
It may take several days to receive the report. Usually, your physician will contact you in order to discuss the test results and decide the next steps.
Your echo report should include:
- Your heart rate – normally between 60 and 100 beats per minute
- An assessment of your heart’s size – an enlarged heart may indicate a dilated chamber
- An evaluation of the pericardium
- An evaluation of the thickness of your cardiac tissue
- An assessment of your ventricles and any abnormalities
- An assessment of your valves and their function
- Information about the presence or absence of any blood clots
- An explanation of any anatomical abnormalities or any suspicious findings
- An evaluation of the accuracy of the images
These results will help your healthcare professional to make a proper diagnosis regarding your heart health, and to determine an effective treatment plan as necessary.
Echocardiogram in the Midlands and Irmo, SC
At SC Internal Medicine Associates & Rehabilitation, we ensure that our patients have all the information they need about their scheduled echocardiogram – and about heart health in general.
To schedule an echocardiogram or an appointment with a heart specialist, contact us today at (803) 749-1111 or fill out our convenient appointment request form online now. We look forward to serving you!