Echocardiogram or Echo is an ultrasound test that uses sound waves to create moving pictures of your heart. Echo cardiac involves placing a device called a transducer on your chest. The device sends special sound waves, called ultrasound, through your chest wall to your heart. As the ultrasound waves bounce off the structures of your heart, a computer in the echo ultrasound machine converts them into pictures on a screen. The echo scan uses ultrasound waves just like the scans performed in pregnant women to examine the unborn baby and is completely safe and painless.
The echo can evaluate the size and shape of your heart and identify the areas of the heart muscle that are not contracting optimally because of poor blood flow from a previous heart attack. A type of echo called Doppler ultrasound shows how well blood flows through the chambers and valves of the heart.
The echography can detect possible blood clots inside the heart, fluid build up in the pericardium (the sac around the heart), and problems with the aorta, the main artery that carries oxygen-rich blood from your heart to your body.
Who needs an Echocardiogram.
You may need an echo if you have signs or symptoms of heart problems such as shortness of breath and swelling in the legs which could be possible signs of heart failure. Heart failure is a condition in which your heart cannot pump enough oxygen-rich blood to meet your body's needs. Echo can show how well your heart is pumping blood.
An echocardiogram canal so helps find the cause of abnormal heart sounds, such as heart murmurs. Heart murmurs are extra or unusual sounds heard during the heartbeat. Some heart murmurs are harmless, while others are signs of abnormal heart function.
Echo also can detect the increased thickness of the ventricles (the heart's lower chambers). Increased thickness may be due to high blood pressure, heart valve disease, or congenital heart defects.
Echo can identify the heart muscles that are weak and not pumping well. Damage from a heart attack may cause weak areas of the heart muscle. Weakening also might mean that the area is not getting enough blood supply, a sign of coronary heart disease.
Echo can show whether any of your heart valves do or do not open normally or close tightly.
Echo can detect congenital heart defects. Congenital heart defects are structural problems present at birth.
Echo can detect blood clots or tumours associated with a recent stroke.
What happens during the echocardiogram.
For this private echocardiogram, you will need to undress to the waist and lie on the couch. A probe is placed on your chest. Lubricating gel is applied to your chest so the probe makes good contact with the skin. The probe is connected by a wire to the ultrasound machine and monitor. Pulses of ultrasound are sent from the probe through the skin towards your heart. The ultrasound waves then 'bounce back from the heart (called echoes) and various structures in the heart creating an image of the heart
What are the risks of an Echocardiogram?
Transthoracic and fetal echocardiography (echo) have no risks. These tests are safe for adults, children, and infants. If you have a transesophageal echo (TEE), some risks are associated with the medicine given to help you relax. You could have a bad reaction to the medicine, problems breathing and nausea. The consultant will address the complications should you experience any. Your throat also might be sore for a few hours after the test. Rarely, the tube used during TEE causes minor throat injuries which will resolve swiftly. Stress echo has some risks, but they're related to the exercise or medicine used to raise your heart rate, not the echo. Serious complications from stress tests are very uncommon.
Types of echocardiography.
There are several types of echocardiography (echo)—all using sound waves to create moving pictures of your heart. Unlike x rays and some other tests, echo does not involve radiation.
Transthoracic echo is the most common type of echocardiogram test. It's painless and noninvasive. This type of echo involves placing a device called a transducer on your chest. The device sends special sound waves, called ultrasound, through your chest wall to your heart. As the ultrasound waves bounce off the structures of your heart, a computer in the echo machine converts them into pictures on a screen.
Stress echo is done as part of a stress test. During a stress test, you exercise or take medicine (given by your doctor) to make your heart work harder and beat faster. A technician will use echo to create pictures of your heart before you exercise and as soon as you finish exercising. This facilitates the diagnosis of heart diseases.
Some heart problems, such as coronary heart disease, are easier to diagnose when the heart is working hard and beating fast.
If your doctor cannot get the optimal image of the aorta or heart details using a standard transthoracic echo, he might need to perform a transesophageal echo or TEE.
During this test, the transducer is attached to the end of a flexible tube. The tube is guided down your throat and into your esophagus (the passage leading from your mouth to your stomach). This allows the consultant to get more detailed pictures of the heart.
Reasons for having an echocardiogram
You have shortness of breath
You have had a heart attack
Your doctor is concerned that you may have heart failure
Your doctor had found that you have a heart murmur
You had an ECG and it is not entirely normal
There is a family history of certain heart conditions
You are being treated with certain types of anti-cancer drugs that need heart monitoring
You have high blood pressure
How much does a private Echo cost?
Our echocardiography scans are competitively priced with no have hidden extras. Unfortunately, we do not accept insurance patients. If you have an insurance cover you will have to pay for the cost of the echocardiogram and claim it from your insurance company. You can pay for your echo scan using cash or credit card.