Just as orthopedists rely on the X-ray for preliminary diagnosis, cardiologists turn to the echocardiogram (or echo, for short). This workhorse is a front-line tool for diagnosing a host of cardiovascular conditions and evaluating the function of your heart.
Like all heart health experts, Dr. James Kim, who is board-certified in cardiovascular disease, appreciates the value of an echocardiogram and often uses this tool to assess the cardiovascular health of his patients.
In the following, we explore what an echo accomplishes and the many different conditions we can identify with this important diagnostic test.
What is an echocardiogram?
An echo test is an ultrasound of your heart. Using harmless and noninvasive sound waves, Dr. Kim is able to view images of your heart to look for any abnormalities in its chambers, valves, or major blood vessels.
While ultrasound technology has been around for years, today’s echo tests are more advanced and provide us with detailed, 3D views of your heart and how it's functioning.
Undergoing an echo test
As we mentioned, an echo test is completely noninvasive. When you come in for this diagnostic test, you’ll change into a hospital gown and lie down on a table.
To start, we apply a gel to the area where we want to capture images, Next, we run a transducer over the area, which sends the sound waves into your body. These waves bounce off of the structures in and around your heart, and this information is relayed to a special computer that creates the 3D images.
In total, we perform an echocardiogram in about an hour, and then you’re free to leave and get on with your day.
What an echocardiogram can tell us
An echo test provides us with valuable information, such as:
- The size of your heart
- How strong your heartbeats are
- The pressure within your heart
- How your valves are functioning
- Whether your valves are narrowed
- Whether there are problems in the blood vessels connected to your heart
To give you a more specific example, with an echo test we can see whether blood is leaking backward through your valves, which may point toward a valvular issue called regurgitation. Or perhaps we might find a problem in your pericardium, which is the outer lining of your heart.
Consider, too, that we may find absolutely nothing abnormal in your heart, which might provide you with some peace of mind.
Once we have the information we need after your echocardiogram, we figure out our next steps, which will likely include further testing, such as a stress test.
The bottom line is that an echo test is not only noninvasive and easy, it’s also highly effective in helping us to evaluate your cardiovascular health. If you have more questions about the echocardiogram, please contact one of our locations in Chula Vista or National City, California, to learn more.