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An echocardiogram is a test that is used to generate live images of the heart using high-frequency sound waves. It creates images of heart chambers, valves, walls, and blood vessels. By using this test your doctor can monitor how your heart and valves are functioning. This test is also called diagnostic cardiac ultrasound or echocardiography. It also diagnoses heart defects in unborn babies.
An echocardiogram is a type of ultrasound test that evaluates the structure of the heart and the blood flow direction within it. There are several types of echo:
- Transthoracic echocardiography
- Transesophageal echocardiography
- Stress echocardiogram
- Three-dimensional echocardiography
- Fetal echocardiography
WHY IS IT DONE?
The main purpose to use echocardiogram is to observe the structure and function of the heart. It is a non-invasive procedure. By using this test your doctor can assess the size of the heart, heart chambers and the valves and determine how your heart valves close and open. This test helps the doctor to diagnose:
- Your heart movement
- Pumping strength of the heart
- Whether the heart valves are working properly or not
- If you have stenosis
- A blood clot in the chambers
- Abnormal holes between chambers
- Problem with the pericardium
- If you have tumor around your heart valves
How is it done?
Your doctor may ask you to remove the clothing from the waist up and lie down on an examination table or the bed. Then, the electrodes will be attached to your body to detect and conduct the electric current of your heart. To improve the conduction of sound waves, they will apply the gel to the transducer. Later, the doctor or radiologist moves the transducer back and forth over the chest to record the pictures of the sound-waves echoes. In between the procedure, your doctor may ask you to breathe in a certain way.
If you are going for a transesophageal echocardiogram, your doctor will numb your throat with a spray or gel and given a sedative to help to relax. Later the doctor uses a tube containing the transducer that will be guided down your throat through the esophagus and positioned to obtain images of your heart.
Tips to remember:
- No special preparations required before the test.
- If you are having a transesophageal echocardiogram, your doctor may ask you not to eat for a few hours before the test.