Monitor Your Heart Health With This Simple Screening
Echocardiography is also called an echo test or heart ultrasound. By taking “moving pictures” of the heart using sound waves, your healthcare provider can get an accurate assessment of the structure of your heart. An echocardiogram is painless and requires no surgery.
Your healthcare provider may recommend an echocardiogram if:
- You’re experiencing heart murmurs
- You have been diagnosed with a congenital heart defect
- You’re suffering from unexplainable chest pains
- You’ve had or have rheumatic fever
- You’ve had a heart attack
What Does an Echocardiogram Do?
An echocardiogram can help your healthcare provider offer you insights into the health and structure of your heart. When your doctor conducts this heart screening, they’ll look for a variety of things. The size and shape of your heart, as well as how its walls move can help them figure out if there might be an issue with the vessels that connect to your heart. Doctors are also interested in how your heart moves and it’s pumping strength. Using the echocardiogram, your doctor can also examine the valves and chambers for abnormal holes or potential clots. Finally, this heart screening is also used to look for tumors or growths in and around your heart valves.
How To Prepare For an Echocardiogram
Echocardiograms are one of the easiest procedures to prepare for. Simply eat and drink as you normally would leading up to the screening. Check with your doctor to see if you should continue taking your regular prescription medications.
This is a relatively common procedure for our doctors to perform. As the echocardiogram is easy to prepare for, it also means that there are no risks. The echo cannot harm you and has no side effects.
How Your Echocardiogram Appointment Will Go
This is a non-invasive test that can be done in the office. Special ultrasound machines are used to help image the heart using sound waves emitted by a hand-held transducer. During the test, the technician will measure vessel diameters, force of blood flow through the heart, and examine various structures such as blood vessels, chambers, and valves. A written report and image capture is provided to your cardiologist for review and analysis.
On occasion, a contrast material must be used to enhance visualization. This medication is injected into the hand or arm via an intravenous portal right before images are taken.
An echo test may be a resting image or it may also require you to walk on a treadmill for a period of time (stress echo). Images are then captured pre- and post-exercise so your cardiologist can see how hard your heart has to work under the stress of exercise.
This test may require 45-90 minutes in the office.