Echocardiogram, Echo or Ultrasound of the Heart
Echocardiogram can sometimes be confused with electrocardiogram. It is a non-invasive test. It does not take long to complete this test. You do not have to be fasting for this test.
The echo-cardiographer puts some gel on your chest and then puts a plastic probe shaped like a small microphone on your chest. You may be asked to turn to different sides during the examination. Sometimes, the probe may need to be pressed against your chest for better data. If your chest hurts during the test, let your echo-cardiographer know. This simple, relatively quick, non-invasive test can give a lot of information.
- It tells us about a heart’s ability to pump and relax. The pumping power is measured in terms of ejection fraction. An ejection fraction of 55% and above (not 100%) is thought to be normal
- It gives good information about the heart valves. It can tell you if your valves are shrinking (getting tighter) or if they are leaking. Mild leakage of valves may be a normal finding in certain cases.
- It can also tell you if you have infection on any of your valves
- A diagnosis of fluid around the heart (pericardial effusion) can be made with great accuracy
- It can reliably measure size of different chambers of the heart. It can tell whether your heart is enlarged.
- It can measure pressure inside your lung arteries. It is called pulmonary pressure. This can be used for the diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension. In certain cases, echo may not be able to provide this information
- Echo can tell you if you have had heart damage from a heart attack.
- Some people are diagnosed to have a murmur. A murmur is a sound heard when your provider examines your heart with a stethoscope. This can be from a benign cause that may never significantly affect your health. A murmur can also be indicative of some serious heart problem. In most of the cases, an echocardiogram can reliably diagnose the cause of a murmur. It can hence tell you if your murmur is something you need to worry about or not.
- Echocardiogram DOES NOT give any information on blockages of heart arteries. Other tests like stress tests or angiogram may need to be done to get information on heart arteries