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An echocardiogram is an ultrasound test that evaluates structure of heart, also the direction of blood flow within it.
During an echo test, ultrasound (high-frequency sound waves) from a hand-held wand placed on your chest provides pictures
of the heart's valves and chambers and helps the sonographer evaluate the pumping action of the heart.
In Echocardiography(more commonly known as Echocardiogram), sound waves are used to produce images of patient?s heart. Doctor can have a good look of shape and size of patient?s heart through moving pictures produced by sound waves. Images produced from echocardiogram help doctor identify heart diseases.
Why is Echocardiography done?
A Doctor can prescribe a person for echocardiography in order to detect any of the following disease:
a. Detect congenital heart defects before birth
b. Check for problems with the valves or chambers of your heart
c. Check if heart problems are the cause of symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain
Types of Echocardiogram
Based on information doctor need, he can prescribe any of the following echocardiogram :
1. Stress echocardiogram/TMT : it is also called TMT treadmill test Heart problems which involve arteries that are responsible for supplying blood to heart muscle generally occur during physical activity. In order to check problems associated with coronary artery, doctor may suggest stress echocardiogram. In this test, patient is asked to walk on a treadmill and ultrasound images of the heart are taken before and after this activity.
2. Transthoracic echocardiogram : This is standard type of echocardiogram. In this test, a sonographer spreads gel on a transducer. This transducer is then pressed on firmly against patient?s skin by sonographer aiming the ultrasound beam through his chest to his heart. Sound wave echoes from the heart are recorded by the transducer. With the help of a computer, these echoes are converted into moving images and are displayed on a monitor. A small amount of dye may be injected through intravenous line if the view is being blocked by the lungs or the ribs. This dye makes heart structures to be visible more clearly.
3. Transesophageal echocardiogram : If doctor wants to get a more detailed pictures of patient?s heart, transesophageal echocardiogram is required. Patient will be given medications to help him relax. A tube which contains a transducer is guided down his throat and then into the tube that connects his mouth to stomach. Sound wave echoes from his heart are heard by the transducer. These echoes are converted into detailed moving images of patient?s heart which can then be viewed on monitor.
4. Doppler echocardiogram : When sound waves bounce off blood cells moving through patient?s heart and blood vessels, they change their pitch. Doctor can measure the direction and speed of blood flow in patient?s heart with the help of these changes. When the blood flow is displayed on the monitor, doctor can pinpoint problems.
Risk involved in Echocardiogram
No major risks are generally involved in it. However, any of the following discomfort might be felt:
a. Slight discomfort might be felt when transducer is pressed firmly against your chest in standard transthoracic echocardiogram.
b. Sore throat for a few hours after undergoing transesophageal echocardiogram.
c. Patient might feel irregular heartbeat for some time after doing exercise required for stress echocardiogram.
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