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Echocardiography is commonly performed to diagnose heart diseases, especially for assessing the disorders of heart valves. In Echocardiography, the images of the heart’s muscles and the valves are created by using ultrasound waves.
Special features of the procedure
- The patient needs to lie bare-chested on the examination table and gel is applied over the chest to facilitate good contact of the transducer (probe)) and its smooth movement over the skin. A transducer, a device attached to the flexible cable, is a modified microphone that directs ultrasound waves into the chest.
- The procedure is generally performed at cardiology department and it takes 15-30 minutes. It can also be performed in a cardiologist's chamber or in an outpatient imaging center.
- In some cases, the different types of echocardiography tests are used such as
- Doppler echocardiography. It helps to evaluate heart valves movement and blood vessels and also helps to locate the exact site of obstruction in the blood vessels.
- Stress echo or an exercise echocardiography is advised to detect the heart problems that are aggravated during exercise and generally not evident when the body is at rest and requires less blood supply. The stress echo is performed during exercise when heart muscles need to work harder to supply more blood to the body.
- The Trans-esophageal echocardiography (TEE) is advised in a few cases when regular echocardiography does not give clear picture, due to barrel chest, lung disease or obesity, to obtain clear two dimensional echocardiogram of the heart.
Advantages and uses of Echocardiography
This is a noninvasive procedure that helps to evaluate the valves and chambers of the heart and diagnose various heart diseases such as
- Abnormal heart sounds(heart murmurs)
- Abnormal movements of the heart valves or infection of the heart valves(endocarditis)
- Improper functioning of the heart and heart muscles causing heart attack
- Infection of the covering of the heart(pericarditis)
- Congenital heart disease or defects
Echocardiography is relatively safe procedure with no major risk or side effects.