To know how this works, all you have to do is look at the first part of the name. Echocardiograms use high-pitched sound waves to pick up echoes that bounce off different parts of your heart. Much the same way an ultrasound can pick up the image of an unborn baby, these echoes are turned into moving pictures of your heart that you and your cardiologist can view on a video screen.
The following are the types of echocardiograms performed at Heart Care Specialists, each with a different purpose.
- A transthoracic echocardiogram is used to look for abnormal heart sounds, enlarged heart, unexplained chest pains, shortness of breath, or irregular beats. The views from the test are typically concentrated on your chest or abdominal wall, which is why it is used to look at the thickness and movement of the heart wall, the workings of the heart valves (or artificial valve if you have one), the size and shape of the heart chambers and their ability to pump blood during each heartbeat. This test is also used to look for blood clots and tumors inside the heart as well as detect diseases such as cardiomyopathy, which affects the heart muscle and its ability to contract.
- A stress echocardiogram is done to find any possible decrease in blood flow to your heart (a condition known as ischemia). The reason it is called a “stress test” is because the test is done both before and after your heart rate is increased, which is done through controlled stressing of the heart muscle (either through exercise or by using medicine).
- Standard echo is a two-dimensional (2D) image used to evaluate heart and heart valve function. A three-dimension (3D) echocardiogram is a new technology used to provide a real life image of the heart. These real life images provide our physicians with the ability to see the heart and diagnose potential problems in a more definitive way that was not possible just ten years ago. Patients do not notice the difference between a 2D and 3D echocardiogram and both are commonly done together to obtain the best images to aid in the diagnosis of cardiac disease.
Only those with advanced training in echocardiography can use a 3D echocardiogram. Our physicians at Heart Care Specialists are the only area cardiologists using 3D technology.
- A definity contrast enhanced echocardiogram uses tiny spheres that reflect the sound waves of an echocardiogram and produce a bright image to evaluate a patient’s heart function. Some people require greater enhanced images using the definity contrast agent (the tiny spheres) to obtain a higher quality study. The definity contrast agent may be used with resting echocardiography or stress echocardiography. At Heart Care Specialists, our physicians use definity to obtain the greatest quality echocardiography study for our patients.