Is your heart healthy? How to know if your heart function is regular and sound? If you are facing any heart-related problems, how to confirm if you are OK?
Heart health and heart disease. Your primary concern. However, you are not alone who has numerous queries about heart health. Around 92.1 million adults in the United States live with some form of cardiovascular disease. In addition, on average, one dies every 40 seconds. Heart disease is one leading cause of death in the U.S.
Doctors usually suggest many tests to detect heart diseases. However, an echocardiogram is a helpful and noninvasive test that gives much information about your heart. In this article, let’s find out what an echocardiogram is, what it shows about your heart, and how accurate it is.
What Is An Echocardiogram?
An echocardiogram, aka Echo, is a non-invasive method to evaluate the structure and function of your heart.
Doctors place a transducer at a certain angle and location on your chest to send sound waves during the process. The sound waves move through the skin and other body tissues to the heart tissues. There, the waves bounce or “echo” off of the heart structures.
These echoing sound waves are transmitted to a computer that creates moving images of the heart walls and valves. This is a basic test that doctors suggest to examine your heart beating and pumping blood.
Why Do You Need The Test?
There are several reasons that your doctor may suggest you an echocardiogram that includes-
- Checking for problems with the valves or chambers of your heart
- Looking for heart disease
- Monitoring heart valve disease over time
- To see how well medical or surgical treatments are working
- Detect congenital heart defects before birth (fetal echocardiogram
How Accurate Is An Echocardiogram?
If you are suffering from any heart issue, an Echo is a helpful and informative test. However, you may ask why an echo? Why not an EKG, a standard cardiovascular test. What can an echo do that an EKG can’t?
The answer is accuracy. An Echo is a more advanced, accurate, and non-invasive medical test to detect the heart’s structure and function issues. An EKG provides limited comprehensive information- the peaks and dips of the heart rhythm on a sequential timeline – that tells about impending heart attacks.
But an Echo provides profoundly accurate information about the overall structure and function of your heart by the colored video image of the heart, encircling veins and blood vessels. Does anxiety affect echocardiograms? Stress causes rapid heartbeats. Your EKG results may be influenced by pressure; however, anxiety doesn’t impact an echocardiogram result.
An echocardiogram gives accurate information about weak heartbeats, pinched, blocked, or clogged vessels, and the structure’s integrity as a whole with different colors. It also shows patterns of blood flow through the heart.
However, very little, there may be misreading of an echocardiogram.
An echocardiogram is usually done by sonographers and interpreted by cardiologists or other doctors who need extra training in that field. If cardiologists, who read the images, had minimal training, they may misread the imaging studies.
One study suggests that insufficiently trained cardiologists misread nearly 30% of diagnostic echocardiograms. It costs the patients in more invasive, unnecessary procedures with stress, tension, and anxiety. However, when the images are of acceptable quality, and the sonographers and the examiners are experienced, you can get a completely accurate result.
Types Of Echocardiograms
Depending on your health condition and the information needed, your doctors may suggest any type of echocardiogram.
A sonographer spreads gel on a transducer and presses the transducer firmly against your skin, sending an ultrasound beam through your chest to your heart. The transducer records the sound wave echoes from your heart. The computer transforms the echoes into moving images on a monitor. If your lungs or ribs block the view, your doctor may inject a small amount of an enhancing agent by an intravenous line. This agent is usually safe. It will make your heart’s structures show up more clearly on a monitor.
If your doctor wants more detailed images, your doctor may recommend a transesophageal echocardiogram. In this procedure, doctors numb your throat and then give medications to help you relax. Then they guide a flexible tube containing a transducer down your throat and into the tube connecting your mouth to your stomach. The transducer records the sound while the computer transforms the echoes into moving detailed pictures of your heart.
Doppler techniques are commonly used in transthoracic and transesophageal echocardiograms that can check blood flow problems and blood pressure in the arteries of your heart. Sound waves used in the Doppler technique adjust note when they bounce off blood cells passing through your heart and blood vessels. The colorized blood flow thus helps your doctor to check the speed and direction of the blood flow in your heart and pinpoint any problems.
Can an echocardiogram detect blocked arteries, especially a stress echocardiogram? Heart problems involving the arteries that supply blood to your heart muscle transpire during physical activity only. In this case, your doctor may suggest a stress echocardiogram to check for coronary artery problems. However, it can’t give information about any blockages in the heart’s arteries.
In a stress echocardiogram, doctors take ultrasound images of your heart before and immediately after you walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike. If you’re incapable of exercising, doctors give an injection to make your heart pump as hard as if you were exercising.
What Does An Echo Show About Your Heart?
An echocardiogram helps detect possible abnormalities of your heart structure and function, causing symptoms of heart disease. In addition, it provides information on heart pumping function, heart size, heart valves, the pattern of blood flow, and other structures in the heart.
Heart Pumping and Relaxing Function
Heart failure may lead to pumping and relaxing abnormalities. An echocardiogram gives us accurate information on the pumping function and the relaxation of the heart. It usually calculates the heart’s ejection fraction, the percentage of blood that the heart pumps out with each beat – 50-60%. An echocardiogram also presents information on both the left and the right sides of the heart.
Suppose artery blockages are the reason for your chest pain. In that case, an echocardiogram may show irregularities in the heart’s walls provided by those arteries.
Heart Valve Function
An echocardiogram shows the structure and function of the four valves in the heart – the aortic valve, the mitral valve, the tricuspid valve, and the pulmonic valve. Suppose there are any abnormalities in any of the valves- tightening or leakiness of the valve. In that case, an echocardiogram can detect a degree of them that determines further interventions.
An Echo provides accurate information about the thickness of your heart wall and the dimension of heart chambers. It can help detect hypertrophy- enlargement of the heart chamber and wall.
Patterns Of Blood Flow
A Doppler echocardiogram shows blood flow patterns through the heart and gives an idea of pressure. It helps detect abnormally high pressure. Colour Doppler also can detect leaky or tight heart valves.
Blood Clots or Tumor
Your heart may suffer several diseases, cancerous cells or tumors are rare to grow in the heart. Usually, genetic issues, environmental or lifestyle factors may lead to this rare heart condition. An Echo can detect possible blood clots inside the heart, fluid buildup in the pericardium, and problems with the aorta.
New generation echocardiogram machines often incorporate a 3D acquisition. It can provide a 3D image of your heart that allows doctors to examine heart strains and get detailed information about your heart’s structure and tissue function.
Surveillance Over Time
Doctors need to monitor many heart disorders over time to ensure healthy living. An echocardiogram is a profoundly reliable way to show changes in heart structure and function over time.
Risks Of An Echocardiogram
Echocardiography is a noninvasive test that carries no significant risks. However, you may find the transducer discomforting because of the pressure it creates on your body. For many, lying on the exam table for long may cause pain or discomfort.
A transesophageal echocardiogram may cause a sore throat for a few hours after the test. On the other hand, during a stress echocardiogram, the exercise or medication may temporarily cause an irregular heartbeat.
Heart disease is one primary concern of every individual. An echocardiogram can monitor and check any abnormalities of your heart. However, how accurate is an echocardiogram?
An echocardiogram is a helpful procedure to have accurate information about the structure and function of your heart. The test gives a precise heart size, blood flow pattern, blood clots, heart valve functions, and many more. However, the accuracy of an echocardiogram always depends on the expertise of the technicians.
Dr. David Nazarian and his specialized team at MyConcierge MD are enthusiastic about giving you the best solution for your heart disease. Schedule a consultation today and take one step to have a healthy life with a healthy heart.