Echocardiogram chart of a patient in New York

What is an Echocardiogram and Why Do I Need One?

By: | Tags: , | Comments: 0 | December 20th, 2016

Echocardiogram chart of a patient in New York

An echocardiogram can provide an image of the movement and size of the various parts of the heart. It produces images of the wall separating the right and left side of the heart, called the septum, the pulmonary and aortic heart valves, and the walls of the heart. The image can also show how the blood flows through the valves and chambers of the heart.

The image is produced using a variety of techniques depending on what condition you are being checked for. The equipment uses sound waves that bounce off the heart and return to create a picture on the screen of the various parts of the heart. Echocardiograms can be used to detect a number of conditions including:

  • Congenital defects
  • Heart valve problems
  • Damage from a heart attack
  • Weak heart muscles
  • An enlarged heart
  • Blood clots
  • Tumors

Types of Echocardiogram

There are four types of Echocardiograms and they differ in the technique used as well as the area they are being used to check.

Stress

This type of echocardiogram is used to determine if you have evidence of coronary artery disease or other issues that can cause blood flow issues to your heart. The image is taken before and after the heart is put under stress by either having the patient exercise or injecting a medication to induce a more rapid heart rate.

Doppler

A Doppler echo uses a probe to detect the movement of the blood through the various parts of the heart and examine how the valves, chambers, and blood vessels react. This procedure is used to measure the pressure and speed at which the blood travels through the vessels and the heart.

Transthoracic

This is the most common type of echo and is entirely non-invasive. It is performed using a transducer, which is placed on the chest. The device emits sound waves that allow the doctor to view the various areas and parts of the heart. This type is typically done to detect or help diagnose problems with an enlarged heart, noises in the heart, and thickness of the heart walls. It is also used to see how well the heart valves work, how well the chambers pump, if there is any weakness in the muscles, and can also be used to check for clots and tumors.

Transesophageal

A TEE involves lowering a probe down through the esophagus to get pictures of the heart without the lungs and bones getting in the way. A sedative is typically given for this procedure and it is used to check the heart after a surgery, monitor artificial heart valves, check blood flow and blood clots, and aid in cardiac catheterization.

One diagnosis an echocardiogram is used to help detect is heart failure. Heart Failure is caused by thickening or stretching of the heart muscle. This can cause your heart to pump blood less efficiently as well as cause fluid to build up in various parts of your body. Symptoms of heart failure can show up at any stage of the disease and therefore should be investigated immediately.

Symptoms of Heart Failure

  • Coughing and Wheezing – With the buildup of fluid in the lungs, coughing with white or pink tinged mucous can be caused by heart failure.
  • Shortness of Breath – This can happen at various times, including when you are resting. You may have difficulty lying flat and have to remain propped up while you sleep. This is caused by a backup of blood in the pulmonary veins.
  • Edema, Buildup of Fluid in Your Body– Because of blood flow impeded during heart failure, the blood can become backed up which can cause fluid retention and swelling especially in your legs and abdomen area.
  • Impaired Thinking– Confusion, disorientation, and memory loss can occur due to changes of the substances in the blood, such as sodium.
  • Nausea and Loss of Appetite -With less blood available, your digestive system can slow, causing nausea and overall loss of appetite.
  • Increased Heart Rate – To compensate for the reduced blood flow, your heart may begin to pump faster to accommodate, which can cause palpitations and an increased heart rate.
  • Fatigue – Since the heart is weaker, it cannot supply all the tissues of the body and this can lead to extreme fatigue, even while doing everyday things such as shopping or even walking.

If you suffer from the above symptoms or other heart issues or conditions contact the doctors at Boulevard Medical Healthcare today to schedule an appointment. Early detection is key to treatment of any heart condition so book your consultation today.

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