Examining Your Heart

An echocardiogram is a test that uses ultrasound to examine the heart. A transducer is held against the chest and bounces ultrasound waves off the heart. The information is sent to a computer that reconstructs an image of the heart.

There are three main types of echocardiograms:

M-mode - This produces an image that looks like a tracing. It is often used to measure the exact size of the heart's chambers.
2-Dimensional - A 2-D echo shows the actual shape and motion of the heart structures and can show "slices" of the heart in motion.
Doppler - This allows physicians to evaluate the blood flow through the heart. A whooshing sound heard during this procedure is only an amplified, computerized audio signal, not the real sound your heart makes.

What Echos Show

Echos show physicians the size of your heart, the pumping strength, problems with valves, presence of fluid around the heart, blood clots, abnormal holes and more.

During the Test

Electrodes are attached to your chest and shoulders to record the electrical activity of your heart. You will be asked to lie on your back or left side, and a clear gel is applied in order to give the best views possible. You may be asked to breathe slowly or even hold your breath in order to get the best picture possible. The exam usually takes 20 to 60 minutes, depending on the number of views needed and whether or not Doppler echo is required.

The procedure is painless although you may feel slightly uncomfortable pressure from the transducer being pressed against your chest. Patients with broad chests, those who are obese and those with chronic lung disease may not be able to have good quality images produced.

For more information on echocardiograms, call 941-637-2439 or 941-637-2476.