A Picture of the Heart
An echocardiogram is a test that uses sound waves to create pictures of the heart. The picture and information it produces is more detailed than a standard x-ray image. An echocardiogram does not expose you to radiation.
Your doctor might suggest an echocardiogram if he or she suspects problems with the valves or chambers of your heart or if heart problems are the cause of symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain.
This test is done to evaluate the valves and chambers of the heart from the outside of your body. The echocardiogram can help show:
- Heart size. Weakened or damaged heart valves, high blood pressure, or other diseases can cause the chambers of your heart to enlarge or the walls of your heart to become abnormally thickened. An echocardiogram can help your doctor evaluate the need for treatment or monitor treatment effectiveness.
- Pumping strength. An echocardiogram can help your doctor assess your heart's pumping strength. Specific measurements can include the percentage of blood that's pumped out of a filled ventricle with each heartbeat or the volume of blood pumped by the heart in one minute. This is important because if your heart isn't pumping enough blood to meet your body's needs, it could result in heart failure.
- Damage to the heart muscle. During an echocardiogram, your doctor can determine whether all parts of the heart wall are contributing normally to your heart's pumping activity. Parts that move weakly might have been damaged during a heart attack or be receiving too little oxygen. This could indicate coronary artery disease or various other conditions.
- Valve problems. An echocardiogram shows how your heart valves move as your heart beats. Your doctor can determine if the valves open wide enough for adequate blood flow or close completely to prevent blood leakage.
- Heart defects. Many heart defects can be detected with an echocardiogram, including problems with the heart chambers, abnormal connections between the heart and major blood vessels, and complex heart defects that are present at birth.
How it's Done
During the echocardiogram, the technician will apply a special gel to your chest that improves the conduction of sound waves and eliminates air between your skin and the transducer — a small, plastic device that sends out sound waves and receives those that bounce back.
The technician will move the transducer back and forth over your chest. The sound waves create images of your heart on a monitor, which are recorded for your doctor to review. You may hear a pulsing "whoosh," which is the ultrasound recording the blood flowing through your heart.
Trust Us With All Your Heart
All of our cardiac specialists and technicians have been specially trained to perform and evaluate echocardiograms. At Adventist Health Lodi Memorial, you can rest assured you’re getting the best and most professional care anywhere.