Your doctor may use an echo test to look at your heart’s structure and check how well your heart is working. This test may be needed if:
• You have a heart murmur.
• You’ve had a heart attack.
• You have unexplained chest pains.
• You’ve had rheumatic fever.
• You have a congenital heart defect.
Echocardiography uses high-frequency sound waves (also called ultrasound) that can provide a moving picture of your heart. The sound waves are sent through the body with a device called a transducer. The sound waves bounce off of the heart and return to the transducer as echoes. The echoes are converted into images on a television monitor to produce pictures of your heart in motion.
One-dimensional or M-mode echocardiography is one beam of ultrasound directed toward the heart. Doctors most often use M-mode echocardiography to see just the left side (or main pumping chamber) of your heart.
Two-dimensional echocardiography produces a broader moving picture of your heart. Two-dimensional echocardiography is one of the most important diagnostic tools for doctors.
Doppler echocardiography measures blood flowing through the arteries and shows the pattern of flow through the heart.
The type of echocardiogram you have depends on the information your doctor needs.
In this standard type of echocardiogram:
If your doctor wants more-detailed images or it’s difficult to get a clear picture of your heart with a standard echocardiogram, your doctor may recommend a transoesophageal echocardiogram.
In this procedure:
Sound waves change pitch when they bounce off blood cells moving through your heart and blood vessels. These changes (Doppler signals) can help your doctor measure the speed and direction of the blood flow in your heart.
Doppler techniques are generally used in transthoracic and transoesophageal echocardiograms. Doppler techniques can also be used to check blood flow problems and blood pressure in the arteries of your heart — which traditional ultrasound might not detect.
The blood flow shown on the monitor is colorized to help your doctor pinpoint any problems.
Some heart problems — particularly those involving the arteries that supply blood to your heart muscle (coronary arteries) — occur only during physical activity. Your doctor might recommend a stress echocardiogram to check for coronary artery problems. However, an echocardiogram can’t provide information about any blockages in the heart’s arteries.
In a stress echocardiogram:
Echocardiogram will tell your doctor:
How to Prepare for a Heart Ultrasound:
There are no risks, this test cannot harm you, and there are no side effects.
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