Echo (Cardiac Ultrasound) can be very helpful to:
- Evaluate a heart murmur
- Diagnose and determine the extent of valve conditions
- Determine the presence of abnormalities in the structure of the heart
- Measure the size and thickness of the heart and its chambers
- Assess the motion of the chamber walls and the extent of damage to the heart muscle after a heart attack
- Assess how different parts of the heart are functioning in patients with chronic heart disease
- Determine if fluid is collecting around the heart
- Identify the presence of tumors in the heart
- Assess for and monitor congenital defects
- Evaluate a patient’s response to a treatment or a corrective procedure
- Evaluate blood flow through the heart
- Assess the heart condition prior to transplant; see if major blood vessels have been damaged by traumatic injury
- Assess problems with the heart muscle (known as cardiomyopathy)
- Assess abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias)
- Assess Bacterial Endocarditis (BE-an infection of the valves and inner lining of the heart.) This happens when bacteria from the skin, mouth or intestines enter the bloodstream and infect the heart.
- Assess ejection fraction levels (heart flow)
- Rule out any of the above mentioned abnormalities
The echocardiogram has been the most widely used diagnostic test for heart disease for over 50 years.
Types of echocardiograms:
The most common type of echo performed is the transthoracic echo, which is performed by placing the probe on the outside of the chest wall with a gel-like substance to transmit sound waves into the body. There are also several other types:
- The Doppler echocardiograms evaluate blood flow in the heart and blood vessels. This procedure measures the speed and direction of the blood flow within the heart. It screens the four valves for leaks. With Doppler echocardiograms, as the wand moves over your heart you will hear a “whooshing” sound much like that of a washing machine. This is the sound of blood moving within your heart.
- The stress echo or stress test combine the echo exam with a treadmill to walk on or medication that show the effect of exercise on the heart. Stress tests are used to diagnose the narrowing of the coronary arteries
- The contrast echocardiogram combines an echocardiogram with an IV that contains a solution which allows the sonographer or physician to see the inside of the heart more clearly. This is a harmless solution that has no known side effects. You will need to have an IV started to receive a contrast echocardiogram.
- Transesophageal echo is a form of echo where a miniature ultrasound camera is passed down the throat to look at the back of the heart. This allows the physician to obtain very high quality moving images. You can be sedated during the procedure if you wish. Transesophageal echocardiograms are typically performed to evaluate serious heart conditions.
What is EF?
Ejection Fraction (EF) is a key indicator of heart health and is frequently used to determine the pumping function of the heart. Simply stated, EF is the amount of blood pumped out during each beat or contraction. In a healthy heart, 50-75% of the blood is pumped out during each beat. This indicates that the heart is pumping well and able to deliver an adequate supply of blood to the body and brain. Many people with heart failure and heart disease pump out less than 50%. Heart failure (also known as congestive heart failure) is a condition in which the heart is not able to pump enough blood to meet the oxygen demands of the body. For heart patients, knowing your EF is the first step in determining your risk for Sudden Cardiac Arrest.