An Echocardiogram is an ultrasound scan of the heart. Using ultrasound (high-frequency sound waves) transmitted via a probe placed on the chest wall (similar to an antenatal ultrasound), the internal structure of the heart is mapped. Movements of the heart chambers and heart valves are visualized. The blood flow in the heart is analysed and the pumping function (ejection fraction) calculated.
What are the benefits of an Echocardiogram?
This test is used to:
1. Assess the overall pumping function of the heart eg
- Presence and aetiology of heart failure
- How well the heart pumps after a heart attack
2. Determine the presence of any structural heart disease eg.
- Congenital heart diseases (“Holes in the heart”)
- Valvular heart diseases (Disorders of the heart valves)
- Myocardial diseases (Disorders of the heart muscle)
- Pericardial diseases (Disorders of the outer lining of the heart)
3. Diagnose underlying Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
4. Diagnose infections affecting the heart eg.
- Infective endocarditis (Infections of the heart valves)
- Myocarditis (Infection of the heart muscles)
- Pericarditis (Infection of the outer lining of the heart)
5. Diagnose clots in the heart that can lead to major strokes
6. Diagnose cardiac tumors eg atrial myxomas
7. Evaluate the progression of valve disease over time
8. Evaluate the effectiveness of medical or surgical treatments for hypertension, valvular heart disease or cardiomyopathy (weak heart muscles).
Example of a normal echocardiogram
Example of a severely abnormal echocardiogram revealing severe dilated ischemic cardiomyopathy (weak heart due to heart artery blockages)
Example of an abnormal echocardiogram revealing severe mitral regurgitation (Leakage of blood backwards due to inadequate coaptation of heart valves)
Example of an abnormal echocardiogram revealing left atrial myxoma (Tumor in the heart)
Who will benefit from this test?
- Patients with symptoms of
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular heart beats
- Recurrent giddiness or fainting spells
- Lower limb swelling
How to prepare for the test
- Wear a shirt that can be easily removed so as to facilitate the exam.
- You may eat and drink as you normally would the day of the test.
- Take all of your medications at the usual times as prescribed by your doctor.
- As this test will take 30-45mins, please visit the washroom before coming for the exam.
How is the test performed?
- This exam will take place in a private echo room located in our clinic.
- Before the test
- Our female cardiac technician will explain the procedure to you and what the examination will entail.
- You will be asked to remove your clothing from the waist up and we will provide a clinic gown for you to wear during the exam.
- Three electrodes (small flat sticky patches) will be placed on your chest wall and attached to an ECG monitor that charts your heart’s electrical activity during the test.
- During the test
- You will be asked to lie down on your left side on an exam table while our cardiac technician will place a probe (called a sound-wave transducer) on several areas of your chest. The probe will have a small amount of gel on the end to help produce clearer pictures. This gel will not harm your skin.
- To obtain clearer pictures of your heart, you may be asked to change positions an hold your breath several times during the exam.
- It is common to hear your heart sounds (Doppler signals) during the test.
- No medications will be given and there is no radiation exposure during the test.
- A slight pressure of the probe on your chest and a coolness on your skin from the gel will be felt during the exam but there will be no major discomfort.
After the test
- You may resume your normal daily activities after the exam.
- Your echocardiogram will be reviewed by our doctor and a summarized report will be provided and explained to you during your review.
How does the doctor use this test to treat me?
- Normal exam – No further testing may be needed.
- Abnormal exam
- Further investigations such as a cardiac computerized tomography (CT) scan or coronary angiogram may be needed.
- Treatment with cardiac medications to optimize your condition may be given by our doctor.
- Surgery may be needed to correct the structural abnormality eg severe valve disease.