Echocardiography Looking at heart function and valves
A resting echocardiogram allows direct visualisation of the heart muscle.
Using ultrasound technology, we can assess the health of the heart muscle
and the heart valves. Patients with impaired hearts or with leaky or blocked valves
will need frequent echocardiography to monitor their condition.
An echocardiogram is a test that uses ultrasound to look directly at the heart. You may be familiar with the test if you have ever had an ultrasound during pregnancy or of another organ. It is pain-free, although we do need to push onto the chest using the ultrasound probe; this can cause some people a mild discomfort.
The ultrasounds will pass harmlessly through your chest and when the hit parts of your internal organs, are reflected. These reflections are used by the echocardiography equipment to create a ‘live’ moving image of your heart.
“The echocardiogram has become the essential cardiac test. It has replaced our stethoscope and it certainly has revolutionised the detection and treatment of heart disease.”
Why do we need it?
We often perform echocardiography in patients who have had chest pain or breathlessness. Its also used when patients have palpitations. It provides a rapid and thorough assessment of the heart function. We can see the heart muscle beating and can see if there is any weakness. In some conditions, this can be quite subtle and other tests may also be needed.
For patients with a heart valve problem, the changes to blood flow around the valve can be measured using an ultrasound technology called Doppler. This needs to be monitored overtime to observe for changes in the heart valves/
The Test Procedure: what does an echocardiogram involve?
We will ask you lie down on a coach with a bare chest. Ultrasound gel will be placed over the heart and the echocardiographer will record images of your heart, its valves and its function. Many different views are required to get a complete picture of your heart’s health and the probe will need to different positions on the chest. Doppler measurements can be made to determine the speed of blood flow inside the heart and to identify problems with heart valves. The images will then be reviewed by myself before we discuss the findings.
Getting the Results
I review all of the echocardiogram images and movies and assess the cardiac function and the state of the heart valves. If you have had echocardiograms before it is helpful if I can review the previous images or the report. Serial echocardiograms may be needed for certain heart conditions and this may mean repeating the test in a years time.