What is 2D-Echocardiography?
This is a common non-invasive investigation tool for heart conditions. It applies ultrasound waves to generate images of structures of the heart. It allows a real-time visualization of the heart and the large blood vessels connected to it.
With the use of Doppler ultrasound technology, we are also able to interrogate the function of heart valves, derive blood pressures of different cardiac chambers and assess functions of the heart.
How safe is an Echocardiography examination?
This is an extremely safe procedure which can be repeated as often as necessary without any harm. There are no known risks associated with this test. This is the same ultrasound technology used to image babies in pregnant mothers’ wombs. The only difference lies in the shape and frequency of the transducer probes which are used. This is necessary in order to visualize different structures with greater clarity.
Who Should have an Echocardiography examination?
An echocardiogrpahy examination would be useful in situations like:
- Finding of a cardiac murmur with suspicion of valve disease or congenital heart disease
- To evaluate the heart function especially in those who have had a heart attack, valve abnomalities
- Hypertension especially if uncontrolled
- Abnormal ecgs and heart rhythms in order to rule out structural heart disease
- Evaluation and follow-up of heart valves post-surgery or interventional treatment
- In selected stroke patients to rule out a cardiac source of emboli (clots arising from the heart)
- Investigation of symptoms of shortness of breath if a cardiac cause is suspected
- To exclude a cardiac problem if the chest x-ray suggest an abnormal heart size or shape
How do I prepare for an Echocardiography examination?
There is no special preparation needed for this painless, non-invasive procedure. Clothing from the upper body is removed and covered by a gown or sheet to keep you comfortable and maintain the privacy of females. The patient then lies on an examination table.
How is an Echocardiography examination done?
ECG electrodes are attached to the body to allow timing of the cardiac events to the ECG cycle. A transducer (a probe that transmits and receives ultrasonic waves) is placed over the chest or region of interest. A colourless gel is applied on the probe before scanning to improve the image quality.
The echo technologist or cardiologist would acquire images from different parts of the chest to obtain views from different angulations. You may be advised to assume certain body positions for better imaging of the different cardiac or non-cardiac structures.
How long does an Echocardiography examination take?
An evaluation of a normal heart generally takes about 10-15 minutes. However, more detailed interrogation of abnormal findings may take a bit longer.
What information can I obtain from an Echocardiography examination?
- Size of the heart chambers and thickness of heart muscles
- Function of the heart
- Heart valve structures and their functions
- Blood pressures in the heart and lungs
- Extra-cardiac structures eg. Pericardium (outer lining of the heart), aorta (large blood vessel that arises from the heart)
- Presence of abnormal heart structures e.g. .Hole-in-the-heart, growths involving the heart
What does it mean if my Echocardiography examination finding is abnormal?
An abnormal finding would be discussed with your physician. It may mean an incidental finding which needs no further action or something which only needs to be observed and followed-up. Sometimes, further tests or treatment may be advised.
What does a normal Echocardiography examination mean?
A normal examination finding tells you that your heart structures (the heart muscle, chambers, valves and some attached blood vessels) are normal. It also tells you that the heart function is normal. This is true in most cases. Occasionally, the echocardiographic findings might be normal at the time of examination when there is no symptom but become abnormal at a time when the symptom / underlying problem recur.
Disclaimer: This is only general information. A doctor should be contacted if you need any medical advice or if medical decisions need to be made.