We offer echocardiograms at Boardwalk Diagnostics with a provider’s referral. Echocardiograms. Here is what you need to know about echocardiograms and why our team at Healthcare Associates of Texas might order an echocardiogram to help make decisions about your health.
What Is an Echocardiogram?
An echocardiogram, also referred to as an “echo,” is a specific type of ultrasound that reveals information about your heart. Because it is an ultrasound, it uses sound waves to create images. It can show a heart doctor how your heart appears visually, as well as how it performs.
Some echocardiograms may be obtained while you are “at rest” (not moving), while others may be performed while you are putting stress on your heart (for example, exercising on a treadmill). The type of echocardiogram ordered for you will be based on the type of information your healthcare provider wants to learn about your heart.
What Does an Echocardiogram Show?
An echocardiogram shows the chambers of your heart, the structures that make up your heart walls and valves, and the relationship of all these structures to each other. By looking at an echocardiogram, a heart doctor can get information about the appearance of your heart’s structures, as well as information about how efficiently your heart is beating, whether any muscle walls or valves are strained during beats, whether there are any leaky or bulging areas of your heart, or whether there is any buildup of calcium on your heart’s structures. The motion of the heart as it pumps blood throughout its chambers can be clearly seen during an echocardiogram.
Why Would I Need an Echocardiogram?
Your medical provider may order an echocardiogram if you have been having symptoms of a heart condition, such as shortness of breath, abnormal beats, swelling of your extremities, or chest pain, to name just a few. An echocardiogram might also be ordered if you had an abnormality on another type of cardiac study, such as an electrocardiogram (EKG). Your medical provider may also order an echocardiogram to monitor a known heart condition, or if you have had another condition, such as a stroke.
How Long Does an Echocardiogram Take?
An echocardiogram generally takes between 20 and 40 minutes. It is a non-invasive study, and you should not expect to have any pain during the test.
What Is an Echocardiogram Used to Diagnose?
An echocardiogram can diagnose a variety of heart conditions, including this partial list:
- Heart failure (reduced “ejection fraction”)
- Valvular disease (such as stenosis or regurgitation)
- Death of heart tissue (from a heart attack, or otherwise)
- A shunt (an abnormal passageway between heart chambers)
- Abnormal enlargement of particular areas of the heart
- An abnormal growth or buildup on a heart valve
An echocardiogram can also “rule out” certain heart conditions. If your echocardiogram is determined to be normal, it can be just as helpful to a heart doctor who is managing your symptoms.
How Is an Echocardiogram Done?
An echocardiogram is performed using a special ultrasound probe known as a transducer. There are two types of echocardiograms, a transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE), and a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE). A TTE is more common.
Here is what to expect during a cardiogram:
- During a TTE, you will remove the clothes from your upper body and a sonographer will place a special jelly on your chest. You will also have sticky electrode patches applied to your chest. Then, the sonographer will place the ultrasound probe on your chest and move it around in various directions to see your heart from different angles.
- During a TEE, your throat will be numbed with medicine, and you will be given medicine to help you relax. Then, a thin tube will be slid down your throat into your esophagus so that images of the heart can be obtained.
A third type, known as a “stress echo,” involves physical movement in addition to the pictures that are taken while you are resting. You may be asked to walk on a treadmill or ride a bike during the exam to see how your heart responds to increased demand.
How Should I Prepare for an Echocardiogram?
If you are anticipating an echocardiogram, a sonographer will ask you a series of questions about your medical history, including your medications, prior to performing the test. If you are having a stress echo, make sure to wear comfortable clothes and footwear that can enable you to exercise. If you are having a TEE, you will likely be instructed not to eat or drink before the exam.
Is an EKG the Same as an Echocardiogram?
No. While both tests evaluate the function of the heart, an echocardiogram gives more detailed information. An electrocardiogram (EKG) uses electricity gathered from electrodes placed in various places on your chest to generate a snapshot of your heart’s electrical functioning. An EKG can give clues about certain heart conditions (such as a heart attack, heart rhythm problems, or heart anatomy problems). However, it does not directly show the heart. An echocardiogram allows a sonographer to directly record how the heart appears, as well as how it functions.
Who Performs an Echocardiogram?
A certified sonographer typically performs an echocardiogram. After performing the exam, the sonographer will relay the images to a heart doctor who will review them.
What Happens Once My Results Are Ready?
When your echocardiogram results are ready, your heart doctor will provide you with the information or communicate this information to your primary provider. You will be able to ask follow-up questions so that you can understand the results. Sometimes an echocardiogram result might lead to further tests or interventions. Other times, it may provide a helpful baseline or information about how a treatment is progressing.
Echocardiograms at Healthcare Associates of Texas and Boardwalk Diagnostics
At Healthcare Associates of Texas, we use echocardiograms to get detailed information about your heart’s appearance and function. To learn more about echocardiograms, or any of the other types of imaging studies that we have available, please feel free to call either of our Boardwalk Diagnostics locations.
Boardwalk Diagnostics in Bedford – (972) 258-7465
Boardwalk Diagnostics in Irving – (972) 258-7480