An echocardiogram (also called an "echo") is a non-invasive procedure that physicians use to diagnose cardiovascular disease. It uses sound waves to see all four chambers of the heart, the heart valves, the great blood vessels entering and leaving the heart and the sack around the heart. Once doctors diagnose a problem with the heart, they can help determine the right treatment.
Echocardiography allows doctors to visualize the anatomy, structure and function of the heart. It can show the physician if there is a heart valve problem, or how severe the problem is. It can also show if there is an abnormal blood flow within the heart.
At St. Patrick Hospital, we perform several different kinds of echocardiograms.
- A common one is the transthoracic echo, performed by placing a device on the outside of the chest wall with a gel-like substance to transmit sound waves into the body.
- A stress echocardiogram combines the echocardiogram with a view of how your heart works under stress, using a treadmill or a medication that simulates the effect of exercise. Stress echocardiograms can help show the presence and severity of narrowing of the coronary arteries.
- Doppler echocardiograms show how the blood flows in the heart and blood vessels, including how fast and where the blood is flowing.
- The contrast echocardiogram combines an echocardiogram with a view inside the heart, using a harmless solution inserted through an IV as a contrast.
- A transesophageal echo is an echo that uses a very small camera in the esophagus, behind the heart.