What is an Echocardiogram?
Echocardiogram or echo, is a painless test that uses sound waves to create images of your heart. They also show how well your heart’s chambers and valves are working.
Echo can pinpoint areas of heart muscle that aren’t contracting well due to poor blood flow or injury from a previous heart attack. Echo can also detect possible blood clots inside the heart, fluid buildup in the pericardium (sac around the heart), and problems with the aorta. The aorta is the main artery that carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to your body.
Who needs Echocardiography?
Your provider may recommend an echo if you have signs or symptoms of heart problems. For example, shortness of breath and swelling in the legs are possible signs of heart failure. Heart failure is a condition in which your heart can’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs. Echo can show how well your heart is pumping blood.
Echo can also help your provider find the cause of abnormal heart sounds, such as heart murmurs. Heart murmurs are extra or unusual sounds heard during the heartbeat. Some heart murmurs are harmless, while others are signs of heart problems.
Your provider may also use echo to learn about:
The size of your heart. An enlarged heart may be the result of high blood pressure, leaky heart valves, or heart failure. Echo can also detect increased thickness of the ventricles. This may be due to high blood pressure, heart valve disease, or congenital heart defects.
Heart muscles that are weak and not pumping well. Damage from a heart attack may cause weak areas of heart muscle. Weakening also might mean that the area isn’t getting enough blood supply, a sign of coronary heart disease.
Heart valve problems. Echo can show whether any of your heart valves don’t open or close tightly.
Problems with your heart’s structure. Echo can detect congenital heart defects, such as holes in the heart. Congenital heart defects are structural problems present at birth.
Blood clots or tumors. If you’ve had a stroke, you may have an echo to check for blood clots or tumors that could have caused the stroke.
Where will the Echocardiogram take place?
The echo will be performed at North Valley Health Center here in Warren. You will check in at the front desk and register about 10 minutes prior to your scheduled time. This is currently being done by a mobile service, DMS. You will be scanned in a room here at the hospital and they will bring their portable machine to you.
Prep for Echocardiography.
There is no prep for this exam. You may eat, drink, and take any medications you normally would take prior to the exam.
What to expect during the Echocardiogram.
Echocardiogram is painless, the test usually takes up to 45 minutes.
You will be asked to remove your clothing from the waist up. Women will be given a gown to wear during the test. You will lie on your back and left side on an exam table or stretcher.
Soft, sticky patches called electrodes will be attached to your chest to allow an EKG (electrocardiogram) to be done. An EKG is a test that records the heart’s electrical activity.
The sonographer (person specialized in ultrasounds) will apply gel to your chest. The gel helps the sound waves reach your heart. A wand-like device called a transducer will then be moved around on your chest.
The transducer transmits ultrasound waves into your chest. A computer will convert echoes from the sound waves into pictures of your heart on a screen. During the test, the lights will be dimmed so the computer screen is easier to see.
The sonographer will record pictures of various parts of your heart. He or she will put the recordings on a disc for a cardiologist (heart specialist) to review.
During the test, you may be asked to hold your breath for a short time. This allows the sonographer to get better pictures of your heart.
How and when will I get my results?
You will get your results from your provider that orders the echo. It may take up to a week or so as it is sent to a cardiologist to be read.