A sick heart can cause a lot of harm. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for American men and women. One American dies every 36 seconds from heart disease.
That is why it is so important to get good images of the heart. Heart specialists can take an echocardiogram and make echocardiogram interpretations that save lives.
But what exactly is an echocardiogram? What are the different ways that doctors can capture images of the heart? What sorts of procedures can they perform?
Answer these questions and you can make quick diagnoses of heart disease. Here is your quick guide.
What Is an Echocardiogram?
An echocardiogram produces a real-time image of the heart. This allows a doctor to determine if the person’s heart is working properly or has significant problems.
Most people receive echocardiograms from heart specialists. Their primary care physician may ask them to see a heart specialist if they report heart pain or another symptom.
Most procedures are non-invasive, and the person experiences no pain as an image is produced. They may even be able to see the image of their heart.
There are three modes that can produce heart images. Each has its own benefits, and a person can receive any one of them without complications.
Two-dimensional (2D) imaging is the most common form of heart imaging. As the name suggests, it produces several two-dimensional images. Though these images are not 3D, they provide clear views of different heart functions.
Most 2D images provide cross-sectional views. A doctor can create images of different axes, which allows them to see several areas of the heart. Specialists are trained on how to understand echocardiogram interpretations from 2D images.
M-mode imaging creates a one-dimensional image. It scans the heart and provides a graphic of a particular heart function, like the timing of heartbeats. It is most useful for ER doctors who need to determine if a person’s heart is strong enough for treatment.
The Doppler effect refers to how sound waves change their frequency in relation to the movement of someone. The horn of a vehicle approaching the person will sound high-pitched as it comes closer to them. But as it passes, the pitch will decrease.
Doppler imaging relies on the Doppler effect to determine how blood flows through the heart. There are several types of Doppler imaging, allowing doctors to track different behaviors of the heart. Doctors can put color patterns over images to see the patterns of blood flow.
Types of Echocardiograms
A doctor may perform a few different echocardiograms. They may rely on one or more imaging modes, but they may administer different procedures to produce distinct visuals of the heart.
A transthoracic echo (TTE) is what most people think of when they hear about echocardiograms. The person lies down on a table and exposes their chest. The specialist then uses a transducer and moves it across the person’s chest.
As they move the transducer, they produce an image on the screen. The transducer relies on sound waves in order to make this image. It is similar to an ultrasound image used to provide visuals of fetuses in the womb.
This form of imaging is entirely non-invasive. It creates no pain and the patient can remain awake during the procedure.
But the quality of images is not always perfect. Sound waves have to pass through skin, bones, and muscles before reaching the heart. This means that specialists may have to use another kind of imaging to produce clear visuals.
As the name suggests, a transesophageal echo (TEE) involves a transducer in the esophagus. Putting the transducer here allows the specialist to see the heart at a different angle.
This procedure is done to determine if someone has an infection in their heart or an embolism. The person will receive a sedative so they do not experience discomfort during the procedure. Some people may receive anesthesia so they are not conscious while the doctor takes the images.
A TEE produces higher-quality images than a TTE because the sound waves have to pass through less material. Yet a TEE requires more time to make than a TTE. This makes it less than optimal in urgent situations.
A stress echocardiogram allows doctors to see how the heart performs under stress. Most specialists recommend a stress test for people who have narrow coronary arteries. A person may receive a resting echo at first.
The individual is then connected to a transducer. They walk on a treadmill at a slow pace for a few minutes. Their doctor may then ask them to walk faster or change the incline of their treadmill.
Someone who cannot exercise may receive a drug that makes their heart beat faster. A doctor can then examine the heart rate and blood pressure through a transducer.
Doctors remain with individuals receiving a stress echo at all times. If a person has pain or a change in blood pressure, the test will immediately stop.
Get Good Echocardiogram Interpretations
Echocardiogram interpretations save lives. Echocardiography captures live images of an individual’s heart.
Specialists can opt for two-dimensional images, but they can also get one-dimensional and 3D visuals. They can focus on a particular heart function and produce a chart of it. Echocardiography relies on sound waves that induce no pain.
A transthoracic echo is non-invasive and uses a small probe. If a doctor needs clearer images, they can perform a TEE. A stress echo sees how a heart functions during exercise.
Don’t go without a good heart doctor. Specialist Direct provides real-time access to heart specialists. Contact us today.