What is an Echocardiogram?
An echocardiogram aims is to assess the condition of the heart and valves. By using ultrasound waves, the ECG technician can get a moving picture of the heart as it works. Thus being able to determine its shape and size among other things.
There are different types of echocardiograms. Your doctor or cardiologist will recommend the right one based on the presented symptoms or diagnosis.
Why do an Echocardiogram?
Your doctor or cardiologist can request an echocardiogram for several reasons. The echocardiagram can be used:
- as part of a diagnosis process, disease management or supervision
- to assess the impact of any taken medication
- when there are suspicions of congenital heart defects in a fetus
When should you do an Echocardiogram?
As echocardiograms are requested by medical professionals such as your GP, you should be ready to undertake one when this is part of your medical regimen. In most cases, echocardiograms are a non-invasive procedure.
Some echocardiograms, such as Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE), and Intravascular Echocardiogram, require the insertion of the transducer in the body. This is a fairly standard procedure and considered as low risk. The type of test will depend on the type of information being sought. And as such may vary from one case to another.
The procedure will vary according to the type of echocardiogram being done. In the standard variety, it works like any other ultrasound.
First, a gel is applied to the skin. This will help get a clearer picture. The transducer is then pressed against the chest. Directly on the skin, while aimed towards the heart. The transducer picks up the sound waves as they echo back. The waves are sent to a computer to create a moving image and sound.
In the case of a Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE), the transducer is attached to a flexible tube. After receiving medication to numb the throat, the tube will be guided down the throat into the oesophagus. This type of test provides clearer images.
An Intravascular Echocardiogram uses a catheter that is threaded through the groin and into a heart blood vessel.
Other types of echocardiogram include Stress Echocardiogram. This type of test is carried out while undergoing physical activity. Such as exercising on a treadmill.