Patient Care - Adult cardiac, endovascular, and thoracic aortic surgery
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Echocardiogram - Echocardiogram is a test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart. The picture is much more detailed than X-ray image and involves no radiation exposure.
This test is performed to evaluate the valves and chambers of the heart in a noninvasive manner. The echocardiogram allows doctors to evaluate heart murmurs, check the pumping function of the heart, and evaluate patients who have had heart attacks. It is a very good screening test for heart disease in certain groups of patients.
Normal Values: A normal echocardiogram reveals normal heart valves and chambers and normal heart wall movement.
What abnormal results mean: An abnormal echocardiogram can mean many things. Some abnormalities are very minor and do not pose significant risks. Other abnormalities are signs of very serious heart disease that will require further evaluation by a specialist. Therefore, it is very important to discuss the results of your echocardiogram in depth with your health care provider.
How the test is performed: The standard echocardiogram is also known as a transthoracic echocardiogram, or TTE. In this case, the echocardiography transducer (or probe) is placed on the chest wall (or thorax) of the subject, and images are taken through the chest wall. This is a non-invasive, highly accurate and quick assessment of the overall health of the heart. A cardiologist can quickly assess a patient's heart valves and degree of heart muscle contraction (an indicator of the ejection fraction). The images are displayed on a video screen, and are recorded either by videotape (analog) or by digital techniques.
An echocardiogram can be used to evaluate all four chambers of the heart. It can determine strength of the heart, the condition of the heart valves, the lining of the heart (the pericardium), and the aorta. It can be used to detect a heart attack, enlargement or hypertrophy of the heart, infiltration of the heart with an abnormal substance. Weakness of the heart, cardiac tumors, and a variety of other findings can be diagnosed with an echocardiogram.
The TTE is commonly used to help diagnose endocarditis. Diagnostic findings by the Echocardiogram include definitive evidence of vegetation or thrombus on valves or other endocardiac structures, abscesses, or disruption of a prosthetic heart valve.
The TTE is highly accurate for identifying vegetations, but the accuracy can be reduced in up to 20% of adults because of obesity, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chest-wall deformities, or otherwise technically difficult patients.
If the echocardiogram is unclear due to a barrel chest, congestive obstructive pulmonary disease, or obesity, your health care provider may choose to perform a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE). With TEE, the back of your throat is anesthetized and a scope is inserted down your throat. On the end of the scope is an ultrasonic device that an experienced technician will guide down to the lower part of the esophagus, where it is used to obtain a more clear two-dimensional echocardiogram of your heart.