Echocardiography uses a handheld probe to emit ultrasonic waves in your body. When the sound waves get reflected off the surface of your heart and are captured back with the probe, this helps create a visual representation of the graphic outline of your heart and its movements. An echocardiogram will be performed by a doctor called a cardiac sonographer. These doctors are trained specifically in performing echocardiography with the best technology and know how to produce the best results accurately.
There are several particular types of echocardiograms based on the technology used. These include:
How does the echocardiogram help the doctor?
Your doctor may order an echocardiogram for different reasons. For example, if you have an irregular heartbeat or your doctor suspects your heart is not pumping as it should, they try to detect the reasons using an echocardiogram. Here are some ways that doctors can understand the functioning of the heart better using an echocardiogram:
What are the conditions for which echocardiography may be suggested?
What are the different types of echocardiography?
There are several types of echocardiography based on the procedure.
This type of echocardiography uses a probe or a transducer that is placed over the chest. This transducer sends ultrasound waves toward your heart. The transducer captures the sound waves that bounce off the surface of your heart. A computer converts this information into visual images, which show the pumping of a heart as live images on the monitor.
This procedure uses a much smaller transducer, which is introduced down your throat through your mouth. Before this process, your doctor will numb the throat by a local anesthetic spray to make it easier and eliminate discomfort. This tube is passed through the oesophagus or the food pipe towards the back side of your heart. This transducer helps with a better view and visualise problems with some heart chambers better.
In this process, your doctor may give you a sedative to help you to relax before starting. Your doctor will also be giving an anaesthetic gel spray on your throat. The tube is then gently inserted, taking care not to create injury and ensuring that you will not feel any pain during the procedure or difficulty breathing. The process takes around half an hour.
This procedure is similar to transthoracic echocardiography, but the doctor will take images before and after you have been asked to exercise or given medication eg- Dobutamine. This helps your doctor understand how the functioning of your heart changes according to stress.
This procedure uses a probe over your chest or oesophagus to create a 3D image of your heart. The computer combines multiple images from different angles to create a 3D image. It is also used to detect problems in the heart which are present at birth.
Fetal echocardiography is used when the pregnancy is 8 to 22 weeks in progress. For fetal echocardiography, the transducer probe is placed over the abdomen of a pregnant person. This test is safe because it does not use harmful radiation like X-rays.
Are there any risks to echocardiography?