What is it?
An echocardiogram, sometimes called an “echo” is a test that doctors use to study how different parts of your heart are working. It uses high-pitched ultrasound waves to take cross-section pictures of your heart as it is beating. These images are then transmitted to a video screen.
An echocardiogram allows your physician to see detailed images of the chambers of your heart, the valves and the major blood vessels without performing more complicated procedures.
An echocardiogram can help your doctor see how efficiently your heart is pumping. He will be able to determine if there are problems in any of the valves or if there are blockages in any of the major blood vessels.
How is the study performed?
During the echocardiogram you will lie on the examination table. In order for the ultrasound waves to travel, and to produce the best images, a clear gel will be applied to your skin on the left side of your chest by the technologist. A small hand-held instrument called a transducer will then be placed against your skin and the images will be recorded. In order to get different views of the heart and the vessels, you may be asked to roll to your side or lie on your back. You might also be asked to hold your breath, take a deep breath or breathe slowly.
Your doctor may have ordered a special type of echocardiogram.
Stress echocardiogram: During a “stress echo,” an echocardiogram is completed both before and after your heart is “stressed.” In order to “stress” your heart, you will either be asked to exercise or you will receive an injection of medication that will make your heart beat faster and harder. This test is often ordered by your physician to help diagnose coronary artery disease, which is a decrease in blood flow to your heart.
Trans-esophageal echocardiogram (TEE): For this procedure, the probe is inserted down inside of your throat, rather than being moved over your external chest. This allows clearer images to be taken. If your physician orders this study, you will be given medication to help you relax and an anesthetic will be applied to your throat to make sure you are comfortable during the test.
When will I get the results of my study?
Usually test results will be reviewed with you during your follow-up visit with your doctor or over the phone. In some cases, your physician may contact you if any significant findings are found.
If you are confused or concerned about the results, don’t hesitate to call our office. Our staff will be happy to help answer your questions.
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