What is an ECHO ?

An echocardiogram or an echo is a graphic outline of the movement of your heart. During the echo test, your healthcare provider uses ultrasound or high-frequency sound waves from a hand-held wand placed on the chest to take pictures of the heart’s chambers and valves. This helps the doctor to check the pumping action of the heart.

Doctors often combine echo with Color Doppler and Doppler Ultrasound techniques to check blood flow across the valves of the heart.

Echocardiography uses no radiation. This makes an echo test different from other tests, such as X-rays and CT scans that use small amounts of radiation.

Why is an ECHO test done?

An echocardiogram is a kind of ultrasound test that checks the function and structure of the heart. An echo can diagnose different kinds of conditions, including valve disease and cardiomyopathy.

Which are the tests performed under an ECHO?

There are several types of echocardiograms. Each one offers unique benefits to manage and diagnose heart diseases. They are as follows:

1. Transthoracic echocardiogram.

2. Exercise stress echocardiogram.

1. Transesophageal echocardiogram.

What techniques are used in echocardiography?

Several techniques can be used in order to take pictures of the heart. The best technique depends on the specific condition and what your healthcare practitioner needs to see. These techniques are as follows.

  • Two-dimensional (2D) ultrasound : This approach is used often. It produces 2D images that appear in the form of “slices” on the computer screen. Traditionally, these slices can be “stacked” to build a 3D structure.
  • Three-dimensional (3D) ultrasound : Advances in technology have made 3D imaging efficient. New 3D techniques show different aspects of the heart, including how well it can pump blood with great accuracy. Three-dimensional view also enables your sonographer to view parts of your heart from different angles.
  • Doppler ultrasound : This technique shows how fast the blood flows and also in which direction it goes.
  • Color Doppler Ultrasound : This technique also depicts your blood flow, but uses a number of colors to differentiate the direction of blood flow.
  • Contrast imaging : Your doctor injects a substance called a contrast agent into one of the veins. The substance is visible in the test images and can show details of the heart. Some people experience an allergic reaction to this contrast agent, but usually, reactions are mild.
  • Strain imaging : This approach shows changes in how the muscles of the heart move. It can show the early signs of heart diseases.

When would you require an echocardiogram?

Your doctor will order an echo for a number of reasons. You might require an echocardiogram if:

  • You are showing some symptoms of heart disease. Your doctor will suggest an echo diagnose the problem and learn more about it.
  • Your healthcare provider wants to check on the condition you have already been diagnosed with. For example, some people with valve disease require echo tests regularly.
  • You’re preparing for surgery or a procedure.
  • Your doctor wants to check the outcome of a surgery or procedure.

What should you avoid doing before an echo test?

It depends on the type of echo you have done. Check with your doctor to learn exactly what you must avoid. Some probable things you may need to avoid before an echo test include:

  • Drinking or eating
  • Using any nicotine products or smoking.
  • Drinking coffee or taking any medication that has caffeine in it.
You might need to adjust the medication schedule before the echo. Talk to your doctor to guide you with your medication routine.

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