Taking Care of Your Hearts


What is an Echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram is a test that records the internal structures and motions of the heart and great vessels with the use of ultrasound. In addition to providing single dimension images, known and M-mode echo that allows accurate measurement of the heart chambers, the echo also offers far more advanced imaging. This is known as two-dimensional (2-D) echo and is capable of displaying a cross-sectional “slice” of the beating heart, including the chambers, valves, and the great vessels.  Doppler is a special part of ultrasound that asses blood flow. During the Doppler examination, the ultrasound beam will evaluate the flow of blood as it makes its way through and out of the heart.


What should I expect during an examination?

No special preparation is necessary. Clothing from the upper body is removed and covered by a gown of sheet to keep you comfortable and maintain privacy of females. The patient then lies on their left side with their left arm under their head on an examination table. Sticky patches or electrodes are attached to the chest and connected to wires. These help to record the electrocardiogram (EKG) during the echocardiography test. The EKG helps in the timing of various cardiac events, which helps achieve more accurate measurements of the heart structures. A water based gel is then applied to the chest and echo transducer is placed of top of it. The echo technologist then makes recordings from different parts of the chest to obtain several views of the heart. The images are acquired in real time and transferred to a reading station for the cardiologist to interpret. 


What information doe Echocardiography provide?

Echocardiography is an invaluable tool in providing the physician with important information about the following: size of the heart chambers, pumping function, valve function, volume status, determine if there is fluid around your heart, and determine if there are any serious or life-threatening conditions of your heart.


How safe is Echocardiography?

Echo is extremely safe. There are no known risks from the clinical use of ultrasound.


How long does it take?

An examination in an uncomplicated case may be done within 15 to 20 minutes. It can take up to 45 minutes if there are multiple problems or there are technical problems. Patients with lung disease, obesity, restlessness, and significant shortness of breath may be harder to image.


When can I expect the results?

It may take up to several days for the images to be reviewed by the cardiologist and the results sent to you phone. All reports will be faxed to your primary care physician and any other specialist requesting results within one to two days.