(11) things you must know about Echo Exam | Magrabi Hospitals

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(11) things you must know about Echo Exam

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(11) things you must know about Echo Exam

What is Echo Exam?

Echo is a short name for echocardiography, which is an ultrasound test that creates pictures/video of your heart to measure its functions.


What does Echo exam measures?

Its main function is to measure cardiac functions including the size of the heart, the shape of the heart, how strong each chamber of the heart pumps, how the valves are working and direction of blood flow. And if you undergo a doppler ultrasound exam, it can also show how the blood flows inside the chambers. Its results can diagnose: valve diseases, myocardial diseases, pericardial problems, endocarditis, cardiac masses and congenital heart diseases.


When is echo exam recommended?

Your doctor / your cardiologist is the one who should recommend that you undergo an echo exam. If you complain of heart problems’ symptoms and if your doctor suspects that you have cardiac disease then an echo exam is in order. Echo exam helps confirm your doctor’s diagnosis, measures the existing problem’s extent and helps in guiding your doctor through the treatment plan. And finally, multiple echo exams can provide solid information if the case is improving or deteriorating.


What are the different types of echo exams?

Echo exam’s standard test is transthoracic echo exam and stress echo. The other type is transesophageal echo exam, it is only recommended if standard tests didn’t provide sharp information and results.  Another important type is echo exams for unborn babies, known as fetal echo. It is a 3-dimensional echo used by obstetricians/cardiologists to diagnose fetal heart problems and to plan heart valve surgery if required.


Where is Echo exam done?

Echo exam could be performed in the cardiologist’s office or in a hospital. It takes less than an hour and doesn’t need special preparations. which means you don’t have to stop eating or drinking or jogging before the taking the exam. Unlike transesophageal echo exam, you should stop eating and drinking 8 hours before taking the test.


How is the echo exam done?

First, you will lay down on a hospital bed, undress your upper clothes and remove any tight clothes (belt or tight pants). Your doctor or technician/sonographer will ask you to lay down on a table, he/she will place electrodes (small metallic disks) on specific spots on your chest. These electrodes are attached to an electrocardiograph monitor/machine. This EKG is essential to monitor your heartbeats while undergoing your echo exam. It is preferred that the exam is done in a quiet, dark room for better video monitoring.

A gel will be rubbed on your chest and your doctor/sonographer/radiologist will use a handpiece called a transducer around your chest to take pictures of your heart. But if you are undergoing the transesophageal type then the handpiece will move on your throat. You may need to hold your breath a few times during the test. When the probe/transducer moves on your chest it produces soundwaves that get reach the heart then bounce off it creating an echo that is read by the probe. These echoes turn into pictures or videos and are displayed on the monitor. It could be recorded and saved for later. For your cardiologist to interpret and for creating a baseline for further treatment options.


How is stress echo exam done?

In the stress echo exam, you don’t lie on a bed like in transthoracic echo exam, on the contrary you gear up and hop on a treadmill or stationary bike. But first, a resting echo exam is performed first for baseline data then you can start the stress exam. Yes, it is used to raise your heart rate and pumping function so your doctor can determine how your heart works under pressure and how high or low your blood pressure goes under stress. for the test to be significant, the exercise must achieve minimal intensity. If the patient can’t reach this minimal intensity then drugs could be administered intravenously to induce the heart response as if it is undergoing vigorous exercise.


Who reads the echo exam results?

Although a sonographer is the one who might run the test, but its results must be interpreted and reviewed by your cardiologist (the doctor specialized in heart diseases).


How long should I rest after the echo exam?

Echo test is not a stressful test, you can resume your daily activity immediately after the exam, but transesophageal echo exam may require a few hours of rest.


What is the risk of echo exam?

There is absolutely no risk in transthoracic and fetal echo exams. But unfortunately, transesophageal echo exam may have some risks. First a drug is administered to help you relax, you may be allergic to it. And rare enough, the tube used in TEE it may cause minor throat injuries. Concerning the stress echo, its only risk lies in the exercise and medicine used to pump up your heart rate. Otherwise, there is no serious complications for stress echo.


What does echo exam asses?

Its main function is to asses and measure most functions of the heart like: valve diseases, myocardial diseases, pericardial problems, endocarditis, cardiac masses and congenital heart diseases.


Magrabi’s advice

Cardiac problems are serious, they shouldn’t be taken lightly. Taking an echo exam can help detect almost any heart problem in real time. If you suffer from any chest pain, leg edema, shortness of breath, easily fatigued then you need to visit your cardiologist as soon as possible.

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