Echocardiograms, otherwise known as echoes, are an important type of cardiac test. An echocardiogram is an ultrasound scan that assesses the structure and function of the heart muscle, the chambers and valves and the attached blood vessels (including the aorta, pulmonary artery and veins). Echocardiograms can check how well the heart’s chambers and valves pump blood through the heart and help in the diagnosis of a number of conditions. Echocardiograms are usually performed by a cardiologist, a private cardiologist or a trained sonographer. Using a transducer, a type of probe, your physician will send high-frequency sound waves into your chest. The probe is moved around the chest and the soundwaves echo off different areas of your heart and the surrounding area, creating a moving picture of your heart. Echocardiograms are usually non-invasive, meaning there should be no pain or adverse side effects. There are five main types of echocardiograms. The doctor will choose a specific echocardiogram depending on what needs to be investigated. The different echo tests are:1. Transthoracic Echocardiograms2. Stress Echocardiograms3. Contrast Echocardiograms4. Doppler Echocardiograms5. Transoesophageal Echocardiograms
Usually, Echo tests take approximately 20 to 30 minutes. Approximately five minutes of this will be spent putting you into the correct position and preparing you for the test.
An Echocardiogram is a device which, through ultrasound waves generated by a probe, allow us to visualise the heart structure, by taking pictures of its different components which are muscle, valves and chambers. We are able to assess: The overall heart size and its chambers, which can became larger. Its function and ability to contract, which can become impaired. The flow across the valves, which can start leaking or become narrow. Indirectly coronary artery disease or blocked arteries which have caused a previous or recent heart attack. Cardiomyopathy, which is a disease of the heart muscle which could be dilated, weak or could be hypertrophic, which means thicker. Endocarditis, which is an infection in the valves and sometimes is followed by a Transoesophageal Echocardiogram which is more accurate. Fluid around the heart, which is called pericardial effusion, usually due to an infection or secondary to cancer or low thyroid function.
You may have names such as Heart Scan, Heart Echo, Heart Ultrasound, or Echo Scan. All of these names mean the same thing and refer to echocardiograms.
Echocardiogram tests are usually requested by a Cardiologist or your primary Physician, such as your GP. Usually, an echo is done because you have reported worrying symptoms. These symptoms could include chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, dizziness or fainting or swollen legs Symptoms should be investigated with an echo before your doctor makes a diagnosis or recommends any treatment. The reason for this is that the symptoms of a number of infections, heart conditions or diseases of the heart can be similar in how they manifest. There are multiple reasons echocardiograms may be done, including:· Investigating symptoms including chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, swelling of the legs, dizziness and syncope (fainting).· If something concerning is picked up during a physical examination, for example, a heart murmur or irregular heartbeat.· The results of a 24-hour electrocardiogram (ECG) test are abnormal.· If there is a history of heart disease.· Monitoring already diagnosed heart diseases or other heart conditions.· Assessing damage to the heart done by high blood pressure.· Investigating cardiac causes of stroke· Assessing whether medical treatment for heart failure is working effectively.
Echocardiograms are used to assess the size, structure and function of your heart. Echoes analyse how the blood flows inside your heart’s chambers and valves and assess the overall functionality of your heart. Echocardiograms are mainly used to diagnose or monitor heart conditions, heart diseases or infections of the valves, the heart muscle or the pericardium, the layer around the heart. They allow a cardiologist or other physician to examine an array of symptoms and conditions and make a diagnosis.Echo tests are most commonly used for:· Assessing the function and strength of the heart.· Checking for any problems with the valves or chambers of the heart.· Assessing the heart’s size.· Measuring the size, thickness and movement of the walls of the heart. · Checking that blood isn’t leaking backwards through the heart’s valves (known as regurgitation) or there is an obstruction to the blood flow ( known as stenosis)· Identifying any damage that occurred as a result of a heart attack.· Detecting or investigating heart failure or congenital heart defects.· Identifying different types of heart disease, such as coronary heart disease, heart valve disease and cardiomyopathy.· Detecting or investigating heart infections, including pericarditis, endocarditis and myocarditis · Investigating other heart conditions, such as dilated, hypertrophic or restrictive cardiomyopathy.· Detecting or assessing an aneurysm or embolism and determining if they are at risk of rupturing.· Detecting or assessing cardiac tumours or other growths. · Investigating any potential blood clots inside the heart’s chambers