What is an Echocardiogram?
An echocardiogram, also known as a cardiac ultrasound, uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the heart, it’s valves and walls, blood vessels both entering and leaving the heart and the pericardium; the sac that surrounds the heart.
What Does an Echocardiogram Test Help Identify?
This test is used to assess a patient’s cardiac anatomy and function, more specifically:
- Identify changes in heart structure
- Assess heart function in patients with chronic heart disease
- Evaluate heart murmurs or arrythmias
- Diagnose the condition of the heart’s valves
- Assess motion and damage to the heart after myocardial infarction
- Identify growths in the heart
- Check for blood clot formation in heart chambers and left atrial appendage
- Test blood flow through the heart
- Assess and monitor birth defects
- Test overall heart function
To begin, please ensure that you’ve followed our patient checklist:
- Bring all current medications to the appointment
- Do not wear any perfumes or colognes on the day of the appointment
- Do not apply any cream or powders to your upper body prior to the test
To begin, a cool gel is applied to your chest. This helps the soundwaves used to generate the imaging travel.
Once applied, the specialist will gently press a small, hand-held device, known as a transducer, against the skin of your chest.
The transducer produces high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) which reflect back from the heart and back to the device. These reverberated sound waves convert into electrical impulses which will become an image on a small screen.
Both still images and video-snippets can be generated and captured. In order to capture the best possible image/video, the transducer may be moved to different areas of your chest, and you may be asked to reposition yourself throughout the test. Additionally, it may be required for you to slowly inhale, exhale or hold your breath.
Once complete, the specialist will further analyze the results. In total, an echocardiogram test can be performed in 30-60 minutes.
Additional Echocardiogram Tests
A contrast echocardiogram (Contrast Echo) uses a solution containing microscopic gas bubbles, which is injected into the patient’s bloodstream to improve the contrast of echocardiogram images.
The microscopic gas bubbles travel through the bloodstream, and move into the heart. There, they appear white in the images, and contrast with the black colour of the cardiac muscle tissue to provide a more distinctly defined image.
A stress echocardiography, also called an echocardiography stress test or stress echo, is a procedure that determines how well your heart and blood vessels are working while the heart is “stressed”.
During a stress echocardiography, you’ll exercise on a treadmill or stationary bike while your doctor monitors your blood pressure and heart rhythm. When your heart rate reaches peak levels, your doctor will take ultrasound images of your heart to determine whether your heart muscles are getting enough blood and oxygen while you exercise.