An echocardiogram is a test in which ultrasound is used to examine the heart. An echocardiogram can provide essential information on how it is functioning and allows accurate measurement of the heart chambers.
The echocardiogram 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 ventricle.
An echocardiogram can be performed in a physician’s office or in the hospital. For a resting echocardiogram, no special preparation is necessary.
A brief examination in an uncomplicated case may be done within 20-30 minutes. However, it may take up to 45 minute when there are multiple problems or when there are technical problems (for example, patients with lung disease, obesity, restlessness, and significant shortness of breath may be more difficult to image).
Clothing from the upper body is removed and covered by a gown or sheet to keep you comfortable and maintain privacy.
The patient then lies on an examination table or a hospital bed. Sticky electrodes are attached to the chest and connected to wires. These help to record the electrocardiogram (ECG) during the echocardiography test. The ECG helps in the timing of various cardiac events (filling and emptying of chambers).
A colourless gel is then applied to the chest and the echo transducer is placed on top of it. The cardiac sonographer then makes recordings from different parts of the chest to obtain several views of the heart.
You may be asked to move from your back and to your left side, so the heart sits closer to the chest wall. Instructions may also be given for you to breathe slowly or to hold your breath. This helps in obtaining higher quality images, which are being constantly viewed on the monitor.
Images and measurements are stored digitally for permanent record of the examination and are reviewed by the physician prior to completion of the final report.
An Echocardiogram can also help diagnose:
Echocardiography is extremely safe.
There are no known risks from the clinical use of ultrasound during this type of testing.
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