An Echocardiogram or also known as Ultra Sound is a non invasive, painless and risk free test to evaluate the valves and chambers of the heart. Sound waves are used to create a moving picture of the heart. There is no radiation involved in this procedure. A transducer that transmits high frequency sound wave is made use of. The test can help identify the areas of the heart muscle that are not contracting normally due to poor flow of blood. An advanced system, Doppler Ultrasound shows how the blood flows through the valves and chambers of the heart. An echo can detect possible damages in the Aorta, which is the main artery that carries pure oxygenated blood from heart to various parts of the body.
An Echocardiogram can be done by a trained sonographer. The patient is made to lie down sideways on the examination table. Gel is applied onto the chest region and then, a Transducer, that transmits high frequency sound waves, is placed on the ribs near the breast. Electrodes will be placed on the chest. The waves are directed towards the heart. Sound wave echoes from the heart are transmitted as electrical signal by the transducer.
In some cases, the body tissue, ribs or the lungs may obstruct the movement of sound waves and hence, a clear image of the heart is not obtained. When these conditions arise, the sonographer may inject a small amount of material(contrast) into the body to get a clear image.
Once the image is taken, the gel is wiped off from the chest. The patient can leave after the procedure is over can get back to their normal routine. Procedure will take 30-45 mins if there is no delay in starting.
There are several types of Echocardiogram including one dimensional, two dimensional and three dimensional. Intra cardiac echocardiogram, Intra vascular echocardiogram, Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE), Pharmacological echocardiogram and Exercise stress echocardiogram are the other types of Echocardiogram. Each type of echocardiogram provides unique information to the physician regarding heart structure and function. Depending on the type , Echocardiogram can be invasive and non –invasive. It helps identify blood clots, check condition of certain blood vessels, detect a disease or accumulation of fluid, check the health and performance of heart valves.
The main three types of Echocardiogram, namely, one- dimensional (one dimensional view of the heart, which can be in black or white color), two-dimensional (two dimensional view showing the length and breath of the structures of the heart which is also in black or white) and the three-dimensional (measurement of the ventricle mainly the left, assessment of the structure and function of the valve) help diagnose the following:
- Heart Failure
- Pericarditis (inflammation of pericardium)
- Rheumatic Heart Disease
- Valvular Heart Disease
- Tumors present in heart
- Coronary Artery Disease
- Cardiac Ischemia
- Pulmonary Hypertension
In a Stress Echocardiogram, an Echocardiogram is performed while the patient is exercising on a treadmill at varying speed or elevation. If the patient is unable to perform this activity, a Chemical stress echocardiogram is done. Here, the patient is administered with a chemical (dobutamine) that causes the heart to beat more strongly from which, the response of the heart to stress conditions is inferred.
A Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE) is performed after a standard echocardiogram has revealed a possible a defect with the heart muscle or valve. Transesophageal Echocardiogram helps to find out Blood clots, diagnose Congenital and other types of heart related diseases. It is used during a heart related surgical procedure so as to help the surgeon to find out if there is a need repair or replace a heart valve. During Transesophageal Echocardiogram, a small transducer is inserted into the esophagus via mouth and throat after sedating the patient. The patients ability to breath is not affected. Once positioned, the transducer can transmit images of the heart’s size and structure is found. There are no side effects or complications following a non-invasive Echocardiogram. The patient may return to the normal routine after consulting with the doctor.