WHAT is an echocardiogram and WHY?
An Echocardiogram is a test that involves using sound waves to produce live images of your heart. This test provides your doctor the information about the present condition of your heart and how its valves are functioning. Your doctor uses the images obtained from an echocardiogram to check on any signs to identify heart diseases.
Our specialists here at Yashoda Hospital have listed here some of the most significant reasons why they will recommend you this test-
1. To detect congenital heart defects before birth
2. To check for blood clots in the heart chambers
3. To check for problems with the valves or chambers of your heart
4. To check for the presence of fluid in the sac around your heart
5. To monitor heart pressure, pumping, and relaxing functions of your heart
6. To monitor heart muscles or the after-effects of heart attack
7. To check if heart problems are the cause of symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain
WHAT are the different types of echocardiograms and HOW are they performed?
The types of echocardiogram depend on the kind of information your doctor seeks depending upon your complaints or the doctor’s observation after checking your current condition. The various types of echocardiograms are briefly explained below-
Stress echocardiography: A stress echocardiogram uses traditional transthoracic echocardiography in which your doctor checks for any coronary artery problems by engaging your heart in physical activity by making it beat faster through exercise or medication. In this type of test, ultrasound images of your heart are taken before and after the physical activity is induced which allows your doctor to monitor how your heart performs under stress and thereupon, detect any irregularity in the supply of blood to your heart or any other abnormality.
Transthoracic echocardiography: Considered to be the most common and standard type, a transthoracic echocardiogram is usually painless and non-invasive. In this case, the sonographer (technician) applies a special gel on a device called a transducer and presses it against your skin while aiming the ultrasound beam through your chest to your heart. The device then records the sound wave echoes from your heart in a computer which converts them into moving images on a monitor. Sometimes when the view of these images is blocked by your lungs or ribs, a small amount of an enhancing agent is injected through an intravenous (IV) line that makes your heart’s structures show up more distinctly on the monitor which your doctor then analyses to diagnose the abnormalities in your heart.
Transesophageal echocardiogram: This is recommended when there is a need for more detailed images than the ones obtained from the standard echocardiogram. In this procedure, your throat is numbed by giving you medicine to eliminate the gag reflex and help you relax. A flexible tube containing the transducer is then monitored down your esophagus connecting it to your stomach. The transducer records the sound wave echoes from your heart and converts them into detailed live images which the doctor views on a monitor. With the transducer behind your heart, your doctor gets a more definitive view and is able to visualise the chambers of the heart that were invisible on the transthoracic echocardiogram thereby, detect any unusual occurrence in your heart.
Doppler echocardiogram: Here, the doctor observes the change of pitch in the sound waves which helps to measure the speed and direction of the blood flow in your heart. Doppler techniques are generally used in transthoracic and transesophageal echocardiograms to check blood pressure in the arteries which traditional ultrasound might not detect. The blood flow shown on the monitor is colorized to help your doctor pinpoint any problems.
Three-dimensional echocardiogram: This uses either transesophageal or transthoracic echocardiography to create a 3-D image of your heart from different angles and is usually used to diagnose heart problems in children.
Fetal echocardiogram: Used on expectant mothers, this involves placing the transducer over the woman’s abdomen to check for heart problems in the fetus. Since the test doesn’t use radiation, this is considered safe for an unborn child.
WHAT are the risks factors?
Although getting an echocardiogram is painless, the degrees of risk are different for different types of tests. Echocardiogram is considered a very safe diagnostic test. In case a contrast injection is used, there is a slight risk of allergic reaction to the contrast. Contrast is therefore prohibited for pregnant patients.
The induced physical activity in a stress echocardiogram can temporarily cause an irregular heartbeat or precipitate a heart attack but with your doctor’s supervision, the risk can be avoided. In the case of a transesophageal echocardiogram, your throat may feel sore for a few hours after the procedure. Upon sedation, your oxygen level may fluctuate but is kept in check by timely monitoring.
WHAT to expect after an Echocardiogram?
An echocardiogram procedure usually takes 20-30 minutes. After our sonographer acquires the necessary images our specialist will review them right after, analyse them and inform you about the results. Some of the most common results that signal abnormalities in your heart include impairment in valve functions, clots and defects in the heart, abnormal pumping and blood flow, damage in the heart muscle, irregular cardiac chamber size, and heart constraints.
WHOM to consult?
Our specialists at the Heart Centre at Yashoda Hospital are equipped and ever-ready to give you the best diagnosis and develop a treatment plan specific to each patient’s condition to provide the best care.
For any query on Echocardiogram and its procedure, please feel free to reach out to us on our official website www.yashodahealthcare.com or book an appointment at Yashoda Hospital with our specialists Dr. Alok Sehgal, Dr. Amit Rai, and Dr. Rajat Arora by calling us on 09810922042.