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Echocardiogram is a cardiac ultrasound. It is abbreviated ECHO and is not to be confused with ECG or electrocardiogram. The echocardiogram utilizes standard ultrasound techniques to create a two dimensional image of the heart. The echocardiogram can assess the velocity of blood and cardiac tissue at any point of choice using a pulsed or continuous wave. The echocardiogram cans also assess functions of cardiac valves, abnormal communication between the right and left side of the heart, blood leaking from the valves and calculation of cardiac output.

The echo is used to diagnose cardiovascular disease and it is a widely used test to determine heart disease. The echo can provide a variety of information about the heart including the shape and size, the pumping capacity and the extent and location of tissue damage, as well as the overall health of the heart.

When the Doctor orders an echocardiogram, the patient will be advised to eat and drink as normally done on the day of the test as well as take all prescribed medication. There are typically no restrictions before an echocardiogram is performed.

Echocardiogram Procedure

When the echocardiogram is administered, the patient will be required to remove clothing above the waist and will be issued a hospital gown to wear. Electrodes, usually 3, will be placed on the patient’s chest. The electrodes will be attached to an electrocardiograph monitor that will chart the heart’s electrical activity. The patient will be directed to lie on their left side while on the examination table.

The technician will place a wand covered with gel on several areas of the patient’s chest. The gel is used to produce clearer pictures. The patient may be asked to change positions during the exam to enable pictures be taken of different areas of the heart. The patient may also be required to hold their breath at times.

The patient will not experience any major discomfort during the test. There may be a feeling of coolness from the gel. The test takes about 40 minutes to complete. The patient will be directed to go about their regular activities following the completion of the test.

Stress Echocardiography

Stress echocardiography or transthoracic echocardiogram is a test which uses ultrasound imaging to tell how well your heart muscles are working to pump blood. During the echocardiogram procedure a transducer is placed on the patient’s chest. It looks like a computer mouse and is moved slowly over the chest area. The transducer submits sound waves toward the heart and the sound waves eventually bounce off the heart and are collected by the transducer.

The collected sound waves are processed by the computer and a two dimensional image is created of the beating heart. The image will appear on the computer screen and the patient will be allowed to view the image, if desired.

The echocardiogram results does not produce images of the coronary arteries and the echo is not used to detect coronary artery disease. The echo will not measure the overall cardiac muscle accurately. If a patient has a thick chest wall or is suffering from emphysema, the ability to image the cardiac structure will be limited. The physical limitations can be overcome by utilizing a transesophageal echo test.

Transesophageal Echocardiogram

A transesophageal echocardiogram or TEE, is an alternative way to perform an echocardiogram. A specialized probe containing an ultrasound transducer at its tip is passed into the patient’s esophagus. This allows image and Doppler evaluation which can be recorded.

Filed in: Ultrasound Technician, Ultrasound Technician Job

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