What is an echocardiogram?
A standard echocardiogram is also called a Transthoracic Echocardiogram (TTE). TTE is the most common type of echocardiogram that people have. This procedure is often referred to as a surface echo or ultrasound of the heart. An echocardiogram allows us to see the beating heart through the use of ultrasound technology. With this test, we can assess the function of the heart valves, strength of the heart muscle, and the chamber sizes; observe the pericardium (the sac in which the heart rests); and estimate pressures inside the chambers of the heart.
Why should I have an echocardiogram procedure?
There a numerous reasons why Dr. Fenster may order an echocardiogram. We use this test to investigate chest pain, shortness of breath, swelling of the legs and feet, heart murmur, heart attack, congestive heart failure, previous angioplasty or coronary bypass surgery, palpitations, hypertension, and pulmonary hypertension.
What does the echocardiogram show?
It shows the size, structure, and movement of the various parts of your heart. This includes the valves, the septum (the wall separating the right and left heart chambers), and the walls of the heart chambers. Doppler ultrasound shows the movement of blood through the heart.
An echocardiogram can be used to:
- Diagnose heart problems
- Establish next steps for treatment
- Monitor changes and improvement
- Determine the need for more tests
Echo can detect many heart problems. Some may be minor and pose no risk to you. Others can be signs of serious heart disease or other heart conditions.
Dr. Fenster may use echo to learn about:
- The size of your heart. An enlarged heart can be the result of high blood pressure, leaky heart valves, or heart failure.
- Heart muscles that are weak and aren’t moving (pumping) properly. Weakened areas of heart muscle can be due to damage from a heart attack. Weakening also could mean that the area isn’t getting enough blood supply, which may be due to coronary heart disease.
- Problems with your heart’s valves. Echo can show whether any of the valves of your heart don’t open normally or don’t form a complete seal when closed.
- Problems with your heart’s structure. Echo can detect many structural problems, such as a hole in the septum and other congenital heart defects. Congenital heart defects are structural problems present at birth.
- Blood clots or tumors. If you’ve had a stroke, echo might be done to check for blood clots or tumors that may have caused it.
How is the echocardiogram test performed?
You will be brought to an exam room and asked to remove your clothing from the waist up and put on a hospital gown. The ultrasound technician will place some electrode patches on your upper body that allow us to monitor your heart rate and take the echo pictures at the calculated time. You will be asked to lie on your left side in order to bring the heart closer to the chest wall and improve the quality of the pictures. The ultrasound technician will place a cool gel on certain points of your chest and then press down the ultrasound probe to take pictures of your heart. The technician then takes measurements and calculations using Doppler technology. For certain views of the heart and blood vessels, the technician may have you lie on your back or hold your breath.
How long does the procedure take?
The procedure takes approximately 30-45 minutes, depending upon the number of pictures and calculations needed. Echo imaging is sometimes challenging in people who are very thin, obese, or have lung disease such as COPD. In these cases the technician may need extra time to obtain the best images of the heart.
Are there any risks?
There are no risks involved with having a standard echocardiogram since it is a noninvasive test. Some people will notice an ache or sore spot in the locations the technician was pressing the ultrasound probe on the chest. This discomfort may be there a day or two.
Where will the echocardiogram test be performed?
The echocardiogram test will be performed right in Dr. Fenster’s office:
Cardiac Institute of the Palm Beaches, PA
3355 Burns Road
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33410
If you are unable to keep the appointment, please contact us at the phone number above at least 24 hours prior to your scheduled time.
Sources / Articles:
- Video: Tests and Procedures-Echocardiogram
- More details: What Is Echocardiography?
- Also see: Exercise Stress Echocardiogram