An echocardiogram is a test in which sound waves are used to examine the functioning and structure of the heart. It is also helpful to examine the body parts’ size, appearance, heartbeat, and blood supply. The doctor placed high-frequency sound waves on your chest to take a clear view of the heart chambers and valves. This test is different from other tests like CT scans or X-rays due to its feature of radiation free. A sonographer used advanced technology, catheterization, lab, and hospital room to perform this test.

Types of Echocardiograms: Following are the different types of echocardiograms:

  • Transthoracic Echocardiogram: In this type, the sonographer puts gel in the transducer and places it in the middle of the chest to examine the heart using ultrasound waves. The device records sound wave echoes from the heart. If the ribs and lungs block the view of the heart, the doctor uses an enhancing agent to get a clear picture of the heart.

Preparations during Transthoracic Echocardiogram: There is no special preparation required for a transthoracic echocardiogram;

  • You can continue medicines usually as you take
  • Wear anything you like
  • No need to avoid drinks and meals
  • Storage boxes are given to the patient for valuable things.

Expectations during Transthoracic Echocardiogram:

  • Hospital gowns are given to the patient, and clothes are removed above the waist.
  • Different small sticky and flat patch electrodes are placed on the chest to record the heart’s electrical activity

.

  • The technician suggests you lie on the left side of the table.
  • A small amount of gel is used, which is not harmful to the skin.
  • Sound waves device is placed on different areas of the chest.
  • You will be asked to hold your breath for a few minutes.
  • You will also listen to the sound of blood flowing through the heart.
  • Transesophageal Echocardiogram: The doctor suggests a transesophageal echocardiogram if he needs a more detailed view of the heart, which couldn’t get with a standard echocardiogram. Anesthesia is given, and a device is ingested from your throat that connects the mouth and esophagus. This device records sound wave echoes to present a clear view of the heart on the monitor.

Uses: Following are the uses of transesophageal echocardiogram;

  • Get a detailed view of the aorta.
  • Check blood clotting.
  • Examine the mitral valve.
  • Examine obesity or lungs problem.

Preparations: 

  • Inform your doctor:
  • If you are having problems with the esophagus or sleeping issues.
  • If you are taking IV drugs regularly.
  • If you are consuming medications for sleep, pain, or anxiety.
  • Take someone with you to the hospital.
  • Avoid meals or drinks before the test for six hours.
  • Try to consume medicines as you usually take with a little sip of water.
  • Leave your valuable things at home.
  • Wear a comfortable dress during your test.

Expectations:

  • The doctor gives pain relieving medicine to your throat.
  • Anesthesia is given to you to feel sleepy.
  • Oxygen is provided to you by a small tube via the nose.
  • The tube is ingested in your mouth to take pictures. 
  • Doppler Echocardiogram: This type of Echocardiogram helps measure the speed and direction of blood supply with the help of doppler technology. It uses high-frequency sound waves that change pitch when they bounce back from blood cells towards the heart and blood vessels. Transthoracic and Transesophageal also used this technique to measure blood pressure and blood flow in the arteries.
  • Stress Echocardiogram: During physical activity, the arteries that supply blood to the heart and other body parts are damaged and cause severe heart problems. In this condition, the doctor suggests an echocardiogram to examine coronary artery disorders. This type of echocardiogram does not show the blockage of heart arteries. It only takes the view of the heart immediately after physical activity. If someone cannot exercise, an injection is ingested into the body to pump the heart faster. 

Preparations for Stress Echocardiogram:  

  • Avoid drinks and meals for at least four hours before the test.
  • Avoid smoking, drugs, alcohol, and caffeine 24 hours before the test. 
  • Don’t consume heart medications on the day of the test.
  • Change your dosage of diabetes medicine. 

Expectations:

  • Small electrodes are placed on the chest during the test to examine the heart’s rhythm.
  • The technician also checks your blood pressure, heartbeat, and heart rhythm before you leave the hospital.
  • Tell all symptoms you feel to your sonographer during exercise.
  • The sonographer also measures your heart rhythms when you walk slowly.

Risks of Echocardiogram:

  • There is no risk associated with a transthoracic echocardiogram. You will feel uncomfortable for some time due to the device, but getting a clear view of the heart is necessary.
  • During a transesophageal echocardiogram, the throat becomes swollen for a few hours. 
  • During a stress echocardiogram, physical activity and exercise may cause severe heart disorders, irregular heartbeat, and other complications.

Techniques of Echocardiogram: Different techniques are used to get a clear view of the heart. Usually, processes depend on the condition and the needs of the sonographer. The methods of echocardiogram are as follows:

    • 2D Ultrasound: It is also known as two-dimensional ultrasound, which shows the 2D heart’s structure on the monitor.
  • 3D Ultrasound: It is also known as three-dimensional ultrasound. It is more advanced, efficient, and valuable than 2D dimensional ultrasound which shows accurate heart pumping and a view of the heart from different angles.
  • Doppler Ultrasound: This technique shows the blood flow and its direction.
  • Strain Imaging: This technique shows the working of heart muscles and signs of heart disease earlier.
  • Contrast imaging: The contrast agent is ingested in the veins to show detail and a clear image of the heart. 

Detection of Echocardiogram: Echocardiogram highlighted the following types of heart defects: 

  • Congenital heart defects in newborn babies.
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Infective endocarditis: Infection of heart valves and their chamber.
  • Pericardial disease
  • Valve disease 
  • Aortic aneurysms, blood clots, and cardiac tumors.

Results of Echocardiogram: After getting the images of the heart, doctors review the results and inform you about any complications or treatment you need. The results show different disorders such as 

  • Abnormality in heart muscles
  • Disorders of the heart
  • Defects in the pumping of blood
  • Heart stiffness
  • Problems with valves and chambers of the heart
  • Blood clotting in the heart
  • Blood pressure

 

References:

  • https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/echocardiogram/about/pac-20393856
  • https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/16947-echocardiogram
  • https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/diagnosing-echocardiogram
  • https://www.healthline.com/health/echocardiogram