Having the knowledge and ability to understand echocardiogram results is an invaluable skill. Check out this guide to help you pick up the basics!
Do you or a family member have an echocardiogram scheduled in the near future?
Maybe you’re a medical professional that wants to brush up on some cardiology foundations.
Echocardiograms are extremely common procedures. In fact, a sonographer in a hospital setting performs an average of 6 echo tests per day.
Read on for a quick echocardiogram guide to help you understand echocardiogram results.
What Is An Echocardiogram?
During an echocardiogram, a doctor will generate a real-time image of the heart. The test monitors ultrasound, high-frequency sound waves, which are projected through the chest and bounce back to create an image of your heart.
The test is useful for diagnosing and monitoring heart problems and creating treatment plans.
Types of Echocardiograms
There are three main types of echocardiogram tests that a doctor may perform.
A transthoracic echocardiogram is noninvasive. It uses a transducer moved across your chest to produce the heart image.
A transesophageal echo test is performed with a tube transducer in your throat. This helps to view the heart from a different angle.
Last, a stress echocardiogram occurs during exercise on a treadmill or bike. This is to monitor your heart’s response to physical activity.
Doctors recommend echocardiograms to diagnose heart conditions.
An echocardiogram reading can help a doctor evaluate if you have a heart murmur, valve problems, or atrial fibrillation. It can also detect fluid around the heart, clotting, or thickening of the heart tissue.
An echo test can also monitor congenital heart disease and pulmonary hypertension.
Echo Results and The Functions of The Heart
The resulting image of an echocardiogram can show a big picture image of heart health, function, and strength. For example, the test can show if the heart is enlarged or has thickened walls.
Walls thicker than 1.5cm are considered abnormal. They may indicate high blood pressure and weak or damaged valves.
An echocardiogram can also measure if your heart is pumping enough blood through your body.
Left ventricular ejection fraction measures the percentage is blood pushed from the heart per beat. Cardiac output is the volume of blood pumped per minute, with the adult average being 4.8 to 6.5 liters.
The heart’s walls won’t pump properly if the walls contract too little or too much. This may indicate a prior heart attack or heart disease.
Your echo results will also tell if the valves of your heart are opening and closing properly. If so, blood flow is normal.
The doctor will also use the overall image of the heart to look for structural defects. Defects include openings between chambers, passages between blood vessels, and fetal heart defects.
Understanding Echocardiogram Results
Having some background knowledge of the purpose of an echocardiogram, how the test works, and what to look for will help you better understand and interpret echocardiogram results!
If you’re a patient, interpreting your echo results can give you peace of mind about the next steps towards treatment.
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