An echocardiogram is basically a sonogram of the heart, but if you’re not a cardiologist, they can be tough to interpret. In this guide, however, we’ll give you some pointers.
Here’s a simple guide to echocardiogram interpretation.
Why Did You Have the Test?
It’s important to know why your doctor prescribed an echocardiogram in the first place. This helps when it comes to interpreting the echocardiogram reads, or echo reads.
Often, shortness of breath or chest pain leads your cardiologist to order the test. It can help diagnose heart issues without invasive techniques.
Some reasons you might have an echocardiogram:
- Enlarged heart or thickened walls
- Issues with the pumping action, valves or strength of the heart
- Damage from a heart attack or evidence of heart disease
- Heart defects
Let’s examine each of these issues in more detail.
An enlarged heart can be a sign of more serious diseases. During your echo, the doctor will measure the walls and chambers of your heart.
Your echo read will show the size of your left ventricle (LV), right ventricle (RV), left atria (LA), and right atria (RA). These are the four main chambers of the heart.
Sizes are usually recorded in millimeters. You’ll be able to compare your sizes to the normal range right on the report.
Pumping Action, Valves and Strength
An echocardiogram is a live picture of your heart at work. It’s a great way for your doctor to see how it’s functioning in real time.
Doctors use a value called ejection fraction or (EF) to determine how well the heart is pumping. This is often expressed as a percentage, with the normal range between 55%-70%.
Low EF could mean issues with the valves or the pumping strength of the muscles.
Damage and Heart Disease
The doctor examines each section of your heart walls to see how they are working. If a part of your heart is not pumping at the same level as the rest, you could have heart damage from a heart attack.
It’s also a good way to see early warnings of heart disease.
They do this by measuring heart rate intervals. Intervals show up in milliseconds and you’ll be able to compare your results with normal levels.
Heart Defects With an Echocardiogram
Heart defects are generally diagnosed in infants and children, but can be found in adults too. Echos can even be done during pregnancy to check for fetal issues.
By checking size, pumping strength, and heart rate, your doctor can find defects. A heart defect can be a hole in a chamber or improper connections between the heart muscles and arteries.
Telecardiology and the Echocardiogram
One of the most exciting advances in cardiology is the rise of telecardiology. You can now receive and interpret your test results remotely, saving you a trip to the doctor’s office.
Certain studies, including the echo, stress echo or stress test, can all be sent to your mobile device.
Have it Checked Out
When in doubt, have it checked out. If you have any of the symptoms of heart trouble, see your cardiologist and ask for an echocardiogram. This includes chest pain, weakness, numbness, or shortness of breath.
Visit our blog to learn more about echo reads and telecardiology.