Has your doctor recommended an echocardiogram for you? No need to be alarmed. It’s not surgery, and it doesn’t hurt. An echocardiogram, or an ‘echo’, is an ultrasound for the heart that uses high-pitched sound waves sent through a device called a transducer. The device picks up echoes of the sound waves as they bounce off the different parts of your heart. These echoes are turned into moving pictures of your heart that can be seen on a video screen. It’s a simple procedure conducted by a trained sonographer which may take place in your doctor’s office, a hospital clinic or even in the emergency room.
There are different types of echo-cardiograms which are able to display the shape of your heart, how well it is functioning, whether you have a clot, or if there are any problems with your heart’s valves. Depending on what your doctor is looking for, your doctor may prescribe one of the following tests:
• Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE). This is the most common type. Views of the heart are obtained by moving the transducer to different locations on your chest or abdominal wall.
• Stress echocardiogram. For this test, an echocardiogram is done both before and after your heart is stressed either by having you exercise or by injecting a medicine that makes your heart beat harder and faster to test your heart’s blood flow.
• Doppler echocardiogram. This test is used to look at how blood flows through the heart chambers, heart valves, and blood vessels. The ultrasound computer measures the direction and speed of the blood flowing through your heart and blood vessels.
• Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE). For this test, the probe is passed down the esophagus instead of being moved over the outside of the chest wall. TEE portray clearer pictures of your heart, because the probe is located closer to the heart, lungs, and bones of the chest wall, so it does not block the sound waves produced by the probe. A sedative and an anesthetic applied to the throat are used to make you comfortable during this test.
If you need to schedule an echo, or have any questions, please contact Jamaica Hospital’s Department of Cardiology at 718-206-7110.