Echocardiogrpahy is the use of ultrasound waves to produce an image of the heart’s structure and funciton. A transducer, or modified microphone, turns electrical energy into sound waves, which enables us to view the muscle and valves of the heart. These images are recorded onto videotape or computer disk for analysis.
Echocardiography is primarily used to evaluate the following:
- Cardiac Valve abnormalities (murmurs)
- Cardiomyopathy (enlargement or weakness of the heart)
- Effects from hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Heart attack damage or scarring
- Pericardial disease (the lining that surrounds the heart)
- Congenital (present at birth) heart defects.
What to Expect
Echocardiography is performed by a trained sonographer. Throughout the test, an electrocardiogram (ECG) is used to monitor the heartbeat. A gel is used on the chest to imporve conduction and reception of the images from the heart.
For Transthoracic Echocardiogrpahy, the transducer is moved across the heart to image your heart muscle and valves. Slight pressure may be used on the area being imaged. You may hear a “whooshing” sound, whichis the amplified sound of the blood flow through the valves of the heart.
The test generally lasts about 30 to 45 minutes.
for Stress Echocardiogrpahy, a type of stress test, you will first have a limited transthoracic echo while lying down to obtain the baseline heart images. You will then exercise on a treadmill until reaching a pre-determined target heart rate, then exercise is stopped abruptly. At that point, you are asked to quickly get in the same position on the imaging table for a repeat transthroacic echocardiographic while your heart is beating at it’s maximum point. The riskd of treadmill exercise will be reviewed carefully before the test and you will need to sign a consent form for the procedure.
For a Transthoracic Echocardiogram, there are not specific directions you need to follow before the test.
For a Stress Echocardiogram, you should only eat a light meal before the test. You should wear flat, comfortable shoes such as sneakers and lightweight shorts or sweatpants for walking on the treadmill.
There are no post-test restrictions for transthoracic echocardiography or stress echocardiography.
Echocardiography Is A Valuable Diagnostic Tool
Carolina Heart Specialists, LLC is dedicated to providing area residents with world class heart care right in our neighborhood. Providing expertise in Echocardiography is just one more example of our dedication to providing the best medical care possible to you and your family.