What Is an Echocardiogram?
An echocardiogram is a medical testing instrument used to show your doctor images of your beating heart and pumping blood. These images may reveal any structural problems or damage that can eventually lead to heart disease or a stroke.
Since echocardiograms allow your doctor to spot heart problems before they become too severe, it’s an important part of cardiology preventative care.The team at the Medex Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Queens, NY strongly believes that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Medex is a multi-disciplinary practice that houses everything from primary care to a wide range of specialties, including cardiologists and vein experts.
Why Is an Echocardiogram Necessary?
Your doctor may decide that an echocardiogram is necessary for several reasons. If you’re exhibiting symptoms that suggest any conditions that affect your blood flow and heart health, your doctor may turn to an echocardiogram. Specific conditions that may call for tests include:
- A possible congenital heart defect of a fetus, which may require a fetal echocardiogram
- Determining whether or not your chest pain or breathing problems are a result of heart problems
- Likely valve or chamber problems in your heart
Your doctor can also use the test to determine other factors, such as identifying:
- The general condition of your heart
- The results of previous medical treatments or surgical procedures
- The gradual progression of valve problems
- Valve disease
- Myocardial disease
- Cardiac masses
- Infective endocarditis
- Pericardial disease
Are There Different Kinds of Echocardiograms?
There are four basic echocardiograms. Your doctor or specialist orders the correct one, based on your needs. Since Medex is a multi-specialty group under one roof, your primary care doctor has access to the expertise of other doctors, such as a trained cardiologist, to determine which tests and treatments are most effective for your symptoms. The different tests include:
- Transthoracic echocardiogram. During this standard echocardiogram, the sonographer spreads gel on the transducer and places it on the skin above your heart to direct an ultrasound beam. The machine then records the reflected sound waves returning from your heart, and a computer makes images out of the sound waves. A lung or rib occasionally impedes the view, in which case, your technician may need to add an enhancing agent through an intravenous needle to provide a clearer image on the monitor.
- Transesophageal echocardiogram. If the images provided by a transthoracic echocardiogram are insufficient, your doctor may order a transesophageal one. During this procedure, your sonographer provides you with medication for relaxation and then numbs your throat. Then a transducer is guided down your esophagus, which is used to direct sound waves toward your heart. Once again, the computer converts the waves into images.
- Doppler echocardiogram. When your doctor needs to measure your heart’s blood flow velocity and direction, this test does the trick. A Doppler echocardiogram bounces sound waves off the blood cells traveling through your heart, veins and arteries. The reflected waves are Doppler signals that measure the changes. Doppler signals can also identify the blood pressure in your coronary arteries, which a routine ultrasound can’t. You also may be asked to undergo a venous Doppler test to provide a thorough examination of your blood vessels.
- Stress echocardiogram. Your doctor may choose a stress echocardiogram to analyze your heart arteries and how they operate under stress during physical activity. During this procedure, your sonographer takes images of your heart before and after exercise. If you’re unable to perform physical exercise, medication is available to encourage your heart to race faster in order to obtain a similar result.
What Happens During an Echocardiogram?
During an echocardiogram, your sonographer escorts you to the lab, where you’re provided with a hospital gown. The sonographer then places three electrodes on your chest, which measure your heart’s electrical pulses. The transducer wand that touches your skin is coated with harmless gel to produce better images. You lie on your left side to begin the test, but you may need to change positions several times to allow the sonographer to get various angles of your heart. At times, you may need to hold your breath.
While echocardiograms don’t prevent heart disease, they can help your doctor identify conditions that may lead to heart disease and stroke. When you choose the Medex Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Queens, you have a full-service medical facility. You don’t have to leave the building for lab tests or referrals. Contact Medex today to set up your initial consultation.