Echocardiography

An echocardiogram, also called an echo or echo test, checks the structures and functions of your heart. The images captured during an echo can prove invaluable to help diagnose heart conditions and overall heart function. Dr. Nadar and his cardiology team at Capital Area Cardiovascular Associates may order an echo test as part of your diagnostic and treatment plan.

What is an Echocardiogram

An echo, also called a cardiac ultrasound, uses sound waves and their reflection or "echo" to create images of the heart muscles, heart valves, blood flow, blood vessels, and areas of the heart including the heart chamber and walls.

Echocardiography does not use radiation but rather uses Doppler ultrasound and color Doppler techniques. This is much like an ultrasound used to create images of babies in utero during pregnancy. The sound waves and their echos are converted by a computer into images of the heart structure.

Echocardiography does not use radiation but rather uses Doppler ultrasound and color Doppler techniques. This is much like an ultrasound used to create images of babies in utero during pregnancy. The sound waves and their echos are converted by a computer into images of the heart structure.

The images help give Dr. Nadar a clear view of your heart's health including:

  • Chamber sizes and wall thickness
  • Left and right heart function
  • Evaluation of regional wall motion abnormalities, valvular function, and intracardiac pressures
  • Heart failure risk
  • Evaluation of infective endocarditis
  • Pericardial diseases and cardiac masses
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Evaluation of the effectiveness of a medical or surgical treatment
  • Assessment of obstructive coronary artery disease (in combination with stress testing)

Getting an echo is key in helping to determine the health of the heart muscle, especially in patients that recently experienced a heart attack. The moving images allow Dr. Nadar and the team at Capital Area Cardiovascular Associates in diagnosing and treating certain cardiac conditions.

Types of Echos

There are several different types of echocardiograms. Depending on your previous cardiac testing, treatments, and condition, you may be scheduled for one of the following echos:

  • Transthoracic echocardiogram: Transthoracic echocardiography (TTE) is the most common type of echo test. During the test a device called a transducer will be placed on your chest and abdominal wall. The transducer sends sound waves into the chest and picks up the echoes that reflect back.
  • Transesophageal echocardiogram: A transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) is a type of echo that provides more detailed images than a TTE. A TEE creates pictures from inside your body, rather than from outside.
  • Exercise stress echocardiogram: During an exercise stress echo, once your resting echo images have been captured, you will start exercise on a treadmill or stationary bike. You will exercise until your blood pressure reaches a goal for your age or other determining factors.

There are different techniques used in echos to create pictures of your heart. These techniques include:

  • Two-dimensional (2D) ultrasound: A 2D echo looks cone-shaped on the monitor and is used to see the actual motion of your heart structure.
  • Three-dimensional (3D) ultrasound: A 3D echo provides greater detail than a 2D echo and allows for a more accurate assessment of heart function. 3D echos involve multiple images and are used before heart surgery and to diagnose heart problems in children.
  • Doppler ultrasound: The Doppler ultrasound technique is used to measure and assess the blood flow through the heart chamber and valves.
  • Color Doppler ultrasound: Color Doppler provides more detailed information than a regular Doppler echo. Color Doppler assigns colors to the direction of blood flow (color flow mapping) allowing large areas of blood flow to be examined and studied.

What to Expect During an Echo Test

Echocardiograms do not require any preparation prior to the test and you can eat and drink as normal. Dr. Nadar may advise you on whether to stop some medications prior to your scheduled test.

The test typically takes around one hour and does not carry any risks. During the echo you will lay on a table in a darkened room (this allows the cardiologist to better view the echo screen and images). A cool gel is placed on your chest to help the transducer create the best images.

You may be asked to hold your breath for a short period of time. After the test is complete, you can continue on with your day as there are no side effects or risks.

If you are scheduled for a TEE, you may experience some mild throat irritation from the scope used to capture images from inside your body.

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