What is an Echocardiogram?
An Echocardiogram is a test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart. We use this, rather than x-ray images, to get a much more detailed picture and it involves no radiation exposure at all. A trained sonographer performs the test, then your heart doctor interprets the results.
This test is performed to evaluate the valves and chambers of the heart in a noninvasive manner. The echocardiogram allows doctors to evaluate heart murmurs, check the pumping function of the heart, and evaluate patients who have had heart attacks. It is a very good screening test for heart disease in certain groups of patients.
How does an Echocardiogram function?
An instrument that transmits high-frequency sound waves called a transducer is placed on your ribs near the breast bone and directed toward the heart. The transducer picks up the echoes of the sound waves and transmits them as electrical impulses. The echocardiography machine converts these impulses into moving pictures of the heart.
What can an Echocardiogram detect?
Blood clots inside the heart
Problems with the aorta
Fluid buildup around the heart (pericardium)
Abnormal heart muscle function
Damaged heart muscle segments
Abnormal heart valve function
Holes between the heart chambers
Echocardiograms can be used to:
- Diagnose heart problems
- Determine the best possible treatment plan
- To monitor changes
- Determine possible need for additional tests
What can I expect during an Echocardiogram?
During the test, you will be asked to disrobe from the waist up and will lie on an examination table on your back. To minimize exposure, female patients are asked to put on a gown. Electrodes will be placed onto your chest to allow for an ECG to be done. A gel will be spread on your chest and then the transducer will be applied. You will feel a slight pressure on your chest from the transducer. You may be asked to breathe in a certain way or to roll over onto your left side.
Echocardiogram works well for most patients and allows doctors to see the heart beating and to visualize many of the structures of the heart. Occasionally, your lungs, ribs, or body tissue may prevent the sound waves and echoes from providing a clear picture of heart function. If so, the Sonographer may inject a small amount of material (contrast) through an IV to better see the inside of the heart.
Here at Culbertson Memorial Hospital, we are able to scan children of all ages- from newborn to adolescent. We are able to screen these patients for congenital and valvular heart disease, the most indication for these is a heart murmur. This is caused by a hole between the chambers, or a narrowed or leaky heart valve.
How to prepare your child:
No special preparations are needed for an echocardiogram. Your child can eat, drink, take any medication that is needed, and continue any everyday activity following the echocardiogram.
What your child can expect:
First. Your child must be undressed from the waist up, and can wear a gown. The child will lie down titled on a hospital bed. A warm gel is applied to the area of the chest where the heart is located so we are able to get more high quality pictures. A device, called a transducer, is placed on top of the gel, against the skin. The Transducer must be moved around the chest, neck, and abdominal area to be able to obtain these pictures. The echocardiogram takes about 30 minutes to an hour if the child is cooperative.