Echocardiography (Echo) uses sound waves to record moving pictures of your heart. It allows your doctor to see how the heart muscle, valves, and chambers are working. It can test for any collection of fluid around the heart (pericardial effusion), as well as blood clots (thrombus) inside the heart chambers.
The size of the heart can be measured. It will detect if the heart is enlarged, thickened (hypertrophied) or if it has been weakened by a heart attack or other event. A weak heart can be a sign of coronary artery disease, where a blockage in a blood vessel does not allow enough blood flow to the heart muscle.
Echocardiography is combined with Doppler ultrasound. This allows the measurement of blood flow in the heart. Using this technique, “leaky” and blocked valves can be evaluated. The aorta, which is the main artery that carries blood out of the heart can also be evaluated. Aneurysms (an abnormal enlargement) of the aorta can be detected.
Congenital heart disease (heart defects that are present from birth) can be detected with echo.
Types of Echocardiography
Transthoracic Echocardiography: This is the most common application of echocardiography. A special gel is applied to the chest wall and then an ultrasound transducer sends sound signals into the chest. These sound waves bounce of the heart and send a signal back that generates a picture of the heart. This is painless and noninvasive.
Transesophageal Echocardiography: In this test the transducer is at the end of a flexible tube. After the throat is numbed with medication, the tube is passed through the mouth, down the throat, esophagus and into the stomach. This allows for very detailed pictures of the heart, without the ribs and lungs getting in the way. This gives you special views of the heart and the aorta.
The Arundel Heart Echocardiography Lab is Accredited by the Intersocietal Commission for the Accreditation of Echocardiography Laboratories.