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  • Adena Regional Medical Center

What is an Echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram (EKG) is a cardiology test that uses high frequency sound waves, known as ultrasound, to take pictures of the heart. The pictures provide visuals of the heart’s chambers, valves, walls and blood vessels. An EKG is a common test that is used to review the heart’s structure for any abnormalities that could be causing current discomfort or could be symptom of a larger cardiac issue. An echocardiogram is generally harmless for patients.

There are several different types of cardiograms, including:

  • Transthoracic echocardiogram, which is the most standard
  • Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE)
  • Stress echocardiogram
  • Dobutamine stress echocardiogram
  • Intravascular ultrasound

How Does an Echocardiogram Work?

To perform a standard echocardiogram (transthoracic), a cardiologist passes a probe called a transducer over the patient’s chest. The transducer creates sound waves that bounce off the heart and produce an echo back toward the probe. The pictures are transmitted to a video monitor for viewing and analysis. Mechanisms for the other tests are as follows:

  • For a TEE echocardiogram, the transducer be inserted down the throat into the esophagus. This can provide a picture without having the structures of the lungs and chest get in the way.
  • For a stress echocardiogram, the patient must be exercising to increase the heart rate so the doctor can monitor heart movement and potential reveal a lack of blood flow.
  • For a dobutamine stress echocardiogram, the doctor gives the patient a medication to trick the heart into thinking its exercising instead of having the patient actually exercise. It measure show well the heart can tolerate activity.
  • For an intravascular ultrasound, the physician uses a catheter threaded into the blood vessels to check for blockage.

What is an Echocardiogram Used For?

There are a few reasons why a primary care physician might order an EKG for a patient. This cardiology test helps doctors determine:

  • The size and shape of the heart, as well as the thickness and movement in the heart’s walls
  • Pumping strength of the heart
  • If the heart valves are functioning properly
  • If there is regurgitation, or blood leaking back through the heart valves
  • If there’s a tumor of infectious growth around the heart valves
  • The presence of stenosis, or a condition in which the heart valves are too narrow

Additionally, an EKG can reveal if there are problems in the pericardium or within the large blood vessels, as well as abnormal holes or a blood clot.

Cardiology at Adena Health System

The Adena Heart and Vascular Center ranks in the top 50 of hospitals nationally for cardiology care. Learn more about the risks and symptoms, as well as assessments and treatments for heart and vascular diseases, including echocardiograms, available at Adena, south central Ohio’s leading heart program.

Ask your primary care physician to schedule your upcoming echocardiogram at your local Adena Health center.

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