What Is an Echocardiogram?
An echocardiogram is a necessary tool that doctors and specialists use to produce images of the heart. It’s a common test that lets the team closely examine how well your heart is beating and pumping blood. If you suffer from heart disease symptoms or have recently experienced a heart attack, an echocardiogram will likely be scheduled for further diagnosis.
There are different types of echocardiograms. Depending on what information the doctor seeks, they may require a special test.
Why Do You need an Echocardiogram?
Your doctor may request an echocardiogram to:
- Check for hidden issues with the heart valves of chambers.
- Closely examine the cause of recent symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath.
- Detect congenital heart defects before birth.
Furthermore, an echocardiogram can help determine:
- The size and shape of the heart, and the thickness and movement of the heart’s walls.
- How the heart moves.
- The pumping strength.
- If the valves are working correctly.
- If blood is leaking backward through the heart valves.
- If the heart valves are too narrow.
Different Types of Echocardiograms
There are four primary types of echocardiograms. Depending on what your doctor requires, they will schedule one of these four early on in your treatment.
- Transthoracic Echocardiogram – This is the most standard type of echocardiogram used by heart doctors. In a transthoracic echocardiogram, a technician spreads gel on a handheld device, known as a transducer, which emits an ultrasound beam through the chest. The transducer then records the sound waves echoing through the heart and a nearby computer converts the sound to imagery.
- Transesophageal Echocardiogram – If a more detailed image is necessary, your doctor may opt for a transesophageal echocardiogram. The throat is numbed and a flexible tube with a transducer is guided down the throat to the stomach. From within, the transducer records the same sound waves, which are then converted to imagery on a nearby monitor.
- Doppler Echocardiogram – During a Doppler echocardiogram, sound waves are bounced off blood cells moving within the heart and surrounding vessels. The changes in pitch help the doctor to measure the total speed and direction of blood flow to and from the heart.
- Stress Echocardiogram – In some cases, especially those involving arteries that supply blood only during physical activity, your doctor may recommend a stress echocardiogram. During this procedure, ultrasound images of the heart are taken before and after a walk on a treadmill or a ride on a stationary bike. If you cannot physically exercise for the test, an injection is given to simulate physical activity.