Echocardiography is the use of ultrasound waves to investigate the action of the heart. An echocardiogram allows your doctor to see your heart beating and pumping blood. The type of echocardiogram you have depends on the information your doctor needs.
Your doctor may order an echocardiogram to:
- Check for problems with the valves or chambers of your heart
- Check if heart problems are the cause of symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain
- Detect congenital heart defects before birth (fetal echocardiogram)
Transthoracic Echocardiography is an ultrasound examination of the heart using a transducer on your chest. We use color images to identify the flow of blood through the heart. Spectral waveforms measure the speed of the blood flow through the heart. When we measure the speed of the flow, you may also hear the sound made by the blood flow.
Transesophageal echo is done usually as a follow-up examination for certain cardiac rhythms or questions as a result of the transthoracic study.
A cardiologist performs the test with a sonographer assisting. After giving medication to relax you, the cardiologist inserts a tube into your esophagus to look at your heart. This procedure allows the cardiologist to see pictures of the heart that cannot be clearly seen from the chest wall.
You must not eat for at least six hours before this exam. We recommend that someone drive you here and back home because of the medications given.
In a stress echo, we take heart images from the chest wall before you walk on a treadmill and again immediately after you reach a target heart rate. This test provides information about the effect of exercise on your heart.
For this study, you should dress in comfortable walking shoes and clothing. We prefer that you not eat for at least two hours before the test.
Pharmacological Stress Echocardiography
Pharmacological stress echo is for those patients who cannot exercise on a treadmill.
This exam is performed in four segments. In the first segment, we take resting images of your heart from four different views. We start medication to elevate your heart rate. In the second segment, we repeat these images during a low dose of medication.
When the medication has increased the heart rate to a target rate, we repeat the previous images. When the heart returns to the starting rate, we repeat these images and the study is complete. Each group of images is evaluated for changes in the heart action during the four segments of study. You must not eat for at least two hours before this exam.
A fetal echocardiogram is an ultrasound test that helps check an unborn baby's heart for abnormalities. Heart defects are among the most common birth defects. Their early diagnosis provides an opportunity to plan for care and treatment of the fetus as well as when it is born. We have a large team of specialized sonographers and physicians who work closely with Dr. Justin Brewer, NMMC's Maternal Fetal Medicine physician.
NMMC's Pediatric Echocardiography program uses state-of-the-art 2D and 3D imaging to help our specialists determine the best treatment for a child. Our specialists evaluate and treat heart murmurs, chest pain, fainting, shortness of breath and palpitation.