Coast Heart Institute

Bassam R. Baroudi, MD, FACC, FSCAI

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TRANSTHORACIC ECHOCARDIOGRAPHY (Ultrasound imaging of the heart)

 

Echocardiography is a test that is mainly used to evaluate the heart muscle function and detect wall motion abnormality, visually evaluate heart valves shape and function and detect tightness or leaks within or around valves or prostheses.
Congenital defects such as ASD and VSD (abnormal openings between the right and left heart chambers) and shunts (flow of blood between the pulmonary and systemic circulations) can also be identified and quantified.

Echocardiography does not help visualize the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart muscle. To evaluate the coronaries, other tests such as stress test and perfusion scan, may be needed.

 

A trained sonographer performs the test by placing a transducer at three primary locations: near the breast bone, underneath the left nipple, and in the upper abdomen. Additional locations may be used if needed. The transducer is a device that emits high-frequency sound waves and receives their echoes/reflections and send them, as electrical impulses, back to the echo machine, which turned them into images displayed on a monitor. Additionally, Doppler is used to record the motion and direction of blood flow through the heart. The patient's healthcare provider will then interpret the study and discuss the results with the patient. Things to be considered: No preparation is needed. you will lie on a table. Three EKG electrodes will be placed on your shoulders and right flank and hooked to the echo machine. you will then role on your left side and cold chiller will be applied to your chest. you will feel it transducer working on your skin with slight pressure. if you have tender points or skin lesions, or too much pressure is applied, please notify the sonographer. the test takes about 30 min. however, it may take a considerably longer time in cases were visualization is poor or if there are positive findings that need further evaluation. the sonographer will not be able to discuss the test findings with you. The test will be interpreted by your cardiologist in the light of your medical history, physical exam and other tests performed.

 

Your healthcare provider has ordered this test due to sign and symptoms, such as dizziness, fainting or loss of consciousness, chest pain, or because he or she has heard an abnormal sound, such as a murmur or friction, during the physical exam. These signs and exam findings can be indicative of minor or serious cardiac conditions, such as ischemia, valve dysfunction, infection, inflammation, effusion, or heart failure. Echocardiography is a valuable tool for diagnosing a plethora of heart conditions. In some cases, it allows early detection of such conditions before they can be diagnosed by other tests or even before signs and symptoms become evident.