What is an Echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram is a test that uses sound waves to produce images of the heart and its blood vessels. It can help your doctor diagnose many kinds of heart disease. This safe, painless procedure uses a little gel on the chest or arms to let sound waves pass from a wand into your body and then bounce back to create images on a nearby screen. It takes only 10 to 30 minutes, depending on how much your heart and blood vessels need checking.

Your doctor may refer you for an echocardiogram if you have signs or symptoms that suggest heart problems, including chest pain when you exercise (angina) or shortness of breath with activity. You may also need an echocardiogram in Upper East Side if you have a family history of heart disease or other risk factors, such as high blood pressure or obesity.

When do you need it?

An echocardiogram can help diagnose heart disease, especially when your doctor suspects you might have a condition that affects your heart’s structural or functional integrity. Conditions that may call for an echocardiogram include:

  • A diagnosis of heart failure, in which the chambers and valves of your heart enlarge because they can’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs.
  • Chest pain when you exercise (angina) and other symptoms of coronary artery disease, in which plaque builds up inside the arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart muscle, causing it to work harder than usual.
  • Shortness of breath with activity, especially if it comes on suddenly.
  • A family history of heart disease or other risk factors for coronary artery disease, including high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, or a strong family history of early heart attack or sudden cardiac death before age 50 in men and women with no previous signs of heart problems.

What to Expect During an Echocardiogram

You may be asked to lie down on a table or sit in a chair during your echocardiogram. An instrument called a transducer would be placed over your chest, back, or arm and moved around slowly while sound waves are directed into your body. When the sound waves bounce off your heart, they make echoes. A computer turns these echoes into the images of your heart that are then displayed on a monitor.

A Doppler ultrasound is used to obtain information about blood moving through blood vessels. When transmitted into the body, soundwaves bounce back when they hit an area with more or less movement of blood cells than surrounding areas. The computer calculates the velocity of the flowing blood and displays it on a monitor as a Doppler waveform. A color-coded image on the screen shows where more and less blood is moving through the vessel you are studying.

What Does It Mean?

An echocardiogram can show whether you have an enlarged heart or if any part of your heart muscle isn’t contracting normally. It can also help identify a heart attack or other abnormalities in heart rhythm. Your doctor can use results from your echocardiogram to decide how urgently you need further tests and treatment.

In summary, an echocardiogram is a test that uses sound waves to produce images of the heart and its blood vessels. You may need it to diagnose heart failure and angina or if you have a family history of heart disease or symptoms of cardiovascular problems. Your doctor can use the results of the test to determine how urgently you need treatment.

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