An echocardiogram is a technique for examining the heart using ultrasound. The standard echocardiogram is also known as a transthoracic echocardiogram or TTE wherein transducer or probe obtains images from different spots on the chest and abdomen. The images provide information on:
- Heart size,
- Heart function or ejection fraction,
- Presence of cardiac malformations,
- Presence of ventricular aneurysms,
- Presence of scars,
- Valve morphology,
- Presence of masses in the heart or valves,
- Presence of pericardial fluid.
In addition an echocardiography can also asses the velocity and direction of blood flow at different points within the heart using Doppler principles. This provides additional information on:
- Valve areas (i.e., orifice size),
- Presence and severity of valvular regurgitation (leak),
- Presence of an abnormal communications between the left and right side of the heart,
- Cardiac output, i.e. the amount of blood pumped out by the heart.
In cases where the images are suboptimal due to the patients body size or the presence of lung disease, ultrasound contrast agents consisting of gas-filled micro bubbles can be injected to improve visualization of the cardiac structures.
Except for showering before the appointment, no preparation is necessary.
Abraham Salacata, MD, FACC