An echocardiogram is a noninvasive, painless, test that uses ultrasound (high frequency sound waves) to produce a two dimensional image of the heart. As we view the beating heart on a television monitor, we can measure heart chamber sizes and wall thickness, assess the strength of the heart and examine its structure, including the heart valves. Color flow and Doppler techniques use ultrasound frequencies to measure the degree of valvular obstruction (stenosis) or leakage (regurgitation or insufficiency).
Echocardiograms are commonly ordered to evaluate heart murmurs, palpitations, chest pain and valvular abnormalities. They are essential tools for understanding congestive heart failure.
Stress echocardiograms combine stress testing, either with treadmill exercise or with intravenous Dobutamine, and an echocardiogram. The stress-echo combination can shed further information on specific regions of the heart muscle or the heart valves when your body demands increased blood flow.
The transesophageal echocardiogram is a more invasive procedure during which you are lightly sedated to help you swallow a probe that is attached with an echocardiogram transducer. By imaging from the esophagus (passage leading from the mouth to the stomach), we reduce the tissue thickness that exists between the chest wall and the heart, and are able to produce more detailed echo images.
No special preparations are necessary for routine echocardiograms. Allow up to one hour.
Stress echocardiograms require no food or drink four (4) hours before the test.
Transesophageal echocardiograms require fasting from the previous night.
Routine medications should be taken for all types of echocardiograms.