What Does an Echocardiogram Do?
An echocardiogram is a type of ultrasound that provides information on both the current physical state of your heart and potential condition of structures connected to it, such as blood vessels. Ultrasound sound waves are bounced off a structure and the echoes of the sound waves are read and interpreted by a machine to produce an image of your heart. The picture lets the ultrasound technician look at your heart without resorting to surgery. For example, an echocardiogram can show if the valves in the heart are not closing completely. There are several different kinds:
- Transthoracic Echocardiogram – The most common echocardiogram. A transducer records the sound waves, which are converted into images on a computer.
- Doppler Echocardiogram – A Doppler echocardiogram is typically used to show how the blood moves through your heart. The Doppler picks up sound waves produced by moving blood and shows the speed and direction of blood flow.
- Transesophageal Echocardiogram – The primary difference in this kind of echocardiogram is the transducer is guided down your throat with a flexible tube, which can show more details than a transthoracic echocardiogram.
- Stress Echocardiogram – Sometimes heart symptoms only occur with exercise. In those cases, you’ll exercise by walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike during the stress echocardiogram. For those who are unable to exercise, medications can mimic the effects of physical activity.
Why Get an Echocardiogram?
If you have current problems with your heart, such as an irregular heartbeat, or if you have a family history of heart problems, your doctor may want to look at the structure to determine how things are going. For problems that suddenly developed, the echocardiogram is a fast way to see if there is anything causing the problem. For example, if a valve is too stiff or doesn’t close properly, it may cause you to be short of breath or have chest pain. For chronic heart issues, the echocardiogram is one of the tools that allow your doctor to monitor such conditions.
An echocardiogram can also show certain kinds of congenital heart defects – even before the baby is born. An echocardiogram provides doctors information about heart size, pumping strength, damage to the heart muscle, valve problems and heart defects.
Heart problems can develop at any age, and if you are concerned about your heart health, speak with a doctor about an echocardiogram. At Boulevard Medical Healthcare, where you can discuss your state of health with doctors who want to see you lead a healthy life. Contact us today to set up a consultation.