It is a test in which ultrasound is used to picture out the heart. It is capable of displaying a cross sectional “slice” of the beating heart, including the chambers, valves and the major blood vessels that exit from the left and right part of the heart.
“Doppler” is a special part of the ultrasound exam that assesses blood flow (direction and velocity). Doppler exam shows the flow of blood as it makes its way through and out of the heart. One would hear “swishing” or “whooshing” sounds during this part of the procedure.
Echocardiography is an important tool in providing the doctors with important information of the following: Size of the chambers, dimension, volume and the thickness of the walls. Pumping function: one can tell if the pumping power of the heart is normal or reduced to a mild or severe degree. Valve function: it identifies the structure, thickness and movement of each heart valve. Volume status: Low blood pressure can occur in the setting of poor heart function but may also be seen in reduced volume of circulating blood.
Others: “pericardial effusion” or fluid in the pericardium (the sac that surrounds the heart), congenital heart disease, blood clots or tumors within the heart, active infection of the heart valves, abnormal elevation of pressure within the lungs. How is 2DEcho done? A colorless gel is applied to the chest or on the transducer head (microphone-like gadget that takes a “picture” or video image of the heart). The room will be dimly lit so that images are clearly viewed on the monitor. You will be asked to lay on your left side as the technician moves the transducer across the different parts of your chest to get specific views of the heart.
Instructions may also be given for you to breathe slowly or to hold your breath. This helps in obtaining higher quality pictures. The images are constantly viewed on the monitor and recorded on photographic paper, videotape or video/digital computer disc (VCD/DVD). The cardiologist then reviews and interprets the recordings.
Sticky patches or electrodes are attached to the chest and shoulders which are connected to an electrocardiogram (ECG) machine. Patients with hairy chest may require shaving so the electrodes can adhere better for good quality electrocardiogram or ECG. These attachments record the ECG during the echocardiography test.
Clothing that covers the chest is removed and covered by a gown or sheet to keep patient comfortable and keep private parts from exposure.
A brief exam in a simple case may be done within 20-30 minutes. However, it may take up to an hour when there are multiple heart problems or when there are technical problems (for example, patients with lungs disease, Obesity, restlessness, and significant shortness of breath may be more difficult to image). The additional use of Doppler may add an additional 10-20 minutes.
It is extremely safe. There are no other special preparations and no known risks from the clinical use of the ultrasound in this type of testing.