The echocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart. Using standard ultrasound techniques, two-dimensional slices of the heart can be imaged. The latest ultrasound systems now employ 3D real-time imaging.
In addition to creating two-dimensional pictures of the cardiovascular system, the echocardiogram can also produce accurate assessment of the velocity of blood and cardiac tissue at any arbitrary point using Pulsed or Continuous wave Doppler ultrasound. This allows assessment of cardiac valve areas and function, any abnormal communications between the left and right side of the heart, any leaking of blood through the valves (valvular regurgitation), and calculation of the cardiac output as well as the ejection fraction.
Echocardiography was the first medical application of ultrasound. Echocardiography was also the first application of intravenous contrast-enhanced ultrasound. This technique injects gas-filled microbubbles into the venous system to improve tissue and blood delineation. Contrast is also currently being evaluated for its effectiveness in evaluating myocardial perfusion. It can also be used with Doppler ultrasound to improve flow-related measurements.
Echocardiography uses ultrasound waves which emit from a probe placed on the chest of the patient and travel through the body. Various tissues can alter these sound waves differently, resulting in various different wave lengths of reflected sound waves. Furthermore, since the probe constantly emits ultrasound waves, it will receive a constant feed back of the heart structures as it changes during its contraction.
The exam is painless. You will be asked to lie down on a comfortable, padded table, which will be positioned. If you wish, a family member or friend may be able to sit close by you in the scan room. The exam should take between 30 to 60 minutes. The technician will be able to observe you throughout the exam. Once your exam is finished, our radiologists will review your images.