Echocardiogram

Echocardiography . Also known as an “echo.” It can help your doctor determine if you are having trouble with your valves, see how your heart is working , and observe movement within the heart. This test can also show heart problems that have been around since birth.

Summary

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  • 1 Utility
  • 2 Operation
  • 3 Types of echocardiogram
    • 1 Transthoracic
    • 2 Transesophageal
  • 4 Possible causes to perform an echocardiogram
  • 5 Risks to the patient
  • 6 Sources

Utility

The echocardiogram allows you to visualize many of the structures of the heart, although sometimes the image can be hindered by the interposition of the ribs, body tissues or cutaneous fat. By changing the position and angle of the probe, it is possible to observe the heart and the main blood vessels from various angles, to obtain a detailed image of the cardiac structures and function. It is very useful to diagnose many heart and vascular diseases.

Functioning

High frequency ultrasounds, emitted by a probe, are used. The ultrasounds are reflected in the tissues and are received by the probe. The echocardiography machine makes the image with the information received by the probe and outputs it on a video screen.

Types of echocardiogram

Transthoracic

It is done through the chest wall. The patient should undress from the waist up and lie on the back on an examination table. Electrodes are then placed to obtain an electrocardiographic image of the heart. The probe is passed through the chest applying a conductive gel. The probe slides down the ribs and sternum to obtain the images. The echocardiographer may ask the patient to breathe in a certain way to improve the images.

Transesophageal

It is performed through a probe that is inserted through the esophagus and allows obtaining clearer images. It is useful when certain pathologies are suspected. A probe is inserted into the patient through the esophagus to visualize cardiac structures after anesthetizing the back of the throat. The procedure lasts around 20 minutes. The echocardiographer will obtain images from different planes to have all the possible information.

Possible causes for an echocardiogram

  • Study of possible pericardial effusions or other diseases of the pericardium.
  • Suspected valvular lesions: type stenosis (valve closure) or insufficiency (weak valve closure).
  • For the study of arrhythmias .
  • In patients with valve prostheses.
  • In patients who have suffered an acute myocardial infarction .
  • Cardiomyopathies study (alcoholic, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy).
  • Suspecting endocarditis .
  • In patients who have suffered a stroke, in which it is suspected that the heart may be participating by sending emboli to the brain.
  • In patients with poorly controlled and severe hypertension , to rule out possible consequences of it at the cardiac level.
  • In patients that the clinic suggests the existence of cardiac tamponade, or aortic dissection.

Patient risks

X-rays and radiation are not used. The transthoracic echocardiogram is a widely used technique because it is non-invasive, does not pose a health risk and has no contraindications. When a transesophageal echocardiogram is performed, the subject must be fasting and must be explained what it consists of and have their collaboration during the test. It is recommended not to eat 1-2 hours after taking it. Exceptionally, with the transesophageal echocardiogram, there can be complications in the esophagus derived from the introduction of the probe. Transesophageal echocardiography may be contraindicated in certain patients with esophageal problems. In cases where the stress echocardiogram, especially when medication is administered, possible adverse effects such as the appearance of chest pain should be kept in mind, feeling of shortness of breath, arrhythmias, etc. However, they are rare.

 

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