What is echocardiography and why do doctors order this type of imaging test? Take a look at the top reasons doctors prescribe an echocardiogram, what you can expect from the test, and how it can help your medical provider to diagnose some types of cardiac conditions.
Echocardiograms Aren't Invasive
Instead of a surgical procedure, this type of test uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the heart. You won't need anesthesia and you won't feel any pain during this type of ultrasound. Instead, the technician or a doctor will guide a hand-held wand over your chest. This creates a picture of the heart and allows the medical provider to see how it pumps in real-time.
Even though a standard echocardiogram isn't invasive, a transesophageal echocardiogram does require the doctor to place a tube down the throat. If you need this type of test, the doctor will numb your throat and give you medication to help you relax. They will then feed a tube down your throat, into the esophagus. The tube contains a transducer that creates moving images of the heart through sound waves.
Echocardiograms Can Check for These Heart Conditions
This type of test can help your medical provider to assess overall heart function. It can also help the doctor to diagnose specific cardiac conditions. These include heart valve disease, congenital heart defects, pericardial disease, endocarditis, and cardiac masses or tumors.
Echocardiograms Provide Immediate Information
Unlike biopsies and other similar lab tests, the doctor won't need to send the test away to get results. Instead of waiting for days or longer for a diagnosis, your doctor may discuss the results with you after the test. Some patients may need further testing to clarify the results. The need for additional images or testing depends on the initial results and may include a cardiac CT, MRI, perfusion scan, blood work, EKG, angiogram, cardiac catheterization, or exercise stress testing.
Echocardiograms and Stress Tests
Also known as a stress echo, an echocardiogram-stress test combination can help your doctor to evaluate how well or efficiently your heart and the surrounding blood vessels work. Along with a standard cardiac echo, you'll also need to exercise on a treadmill. The doctor will monitor your heart's rhythm and your blood pressure as your walk or run. After your heart rate rises, the doctor will use the echocardiogram to create images. This can help them to assess how much blood and oxygen your heart gets as it works harder.
For more information about echocardiography, talk to a doctor.