An echocardiogram is a two or three dimensional dimensional visual representation of the pumping heart derived from ultrasound waves projected into the chest and read by sensors and a computer.
Echocardiograms are safe, noninvasive, painless means of determining heart wall health, valve operation, blood flow in the heart muscle and major nearby arteries and veins, and other matters significant to the health of this vital organ. Back-flow, clogged arteries, blood clots, tumors, thick or thin walls, irregular beats, damaged tissue, heart valve malfunction, and other problems or issues can be readily diagnosed and measured.
The test can be used to view the heart from different angles and areas by moving a transducer (probe) to different positions and angles as it touches the chest around the heart area, sending and receiving sound echoes from the heart somewhat the way a flying bat “sees” in the dark by sending and listening to high pitched sound waves. Humans do not hear or feel the sound waves of the echocardiogram procedure.
The patient normally lies down comfortably with chest area exposed for the trained cardiac sonographer’s examination. A thick, translucent, water-soluble gel is applied to the transducer and/or skin in the sternum area and sometimes left side of the chest both to enable the transducer to slide comfortably on the skin and to enhance echo efficiency and image quality. EKG’s are also used in cardiac stress tests at Medical Imaging Center.
The sonographer holds the transducer in one hand while gently pressing and angling it on the patient’s skin above the sternum area to generate and read the moving echocardiogram images that appear on the computer screen. At times patients may be asked to hold their breath, hold very still, or breath slowly for particular views of the heart. The room may have low light to enable the sonographer to see the images on the screen more clearly. The test may last a half hour to an hour.
Your doctor may prescribe an echocardiogram for chest pains, heart murmur, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and swelling–or after heart surgery or other medical treatment. An echocardiogram may be avoided where there is sufficient detraction from image quality, such as if you are overweight or have large breasts or a lung disorder (COPD).
Medical Imaging Center performs transthoracic (above), Doppler (measuring blood flow) and stress echocardiograms but not transesophageal echocardiography. We also provide EKG services.
Disclaimer: This page and website are intended for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice.
–John Loebel, RT(N) and Dr Gregory Goldstein, MD