An echocardiogram is a test in which ultrasound, a type of sound wave, is used to obtain detailed images of the heart structure and its function.
Ventricular Function: The size and pumping efficiency of the left and right ventricles of the heart, which pump blood to the body and lungs, respectively, can be accurately determined. The pumping efficiency of the left ventricle is typically referred to as an Ejection Fraction, which is normally above 50%. Abnormalities of the pumping function, including evidence of a prior heart attack as well as primary disorders of the heart muscle can be diagnosed.
Heart Valves: The structure and function of each of the four valves in the heart which regulate the direction of normal blood flow in the heart chambers is assessed. By using a special Doppler technique, the presence as well as severity of both leaky valves (valve regurgitation) and narrowed valves(valve stenosis) may be measured.
Major Blood Vessels: The aorta, the large blood vessel which carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body, can be evaluated for enlargement(aneurysm) at several sites including within the root, arch, and abdomen. Other major vessels which are routinely assessed during an echocardiogram include the pulmonary artery, which carries blood to the lungs, and the inferior vena cava, which delivers blood from the lower body to the heart.
Preparation: There is no specific preparation required for an echocardiogram. You do not need to fast for the test. There are no known health risks to having an echocardiogram performed.
When You Arrive: The cardiac sonographer will meet you and briefly review the reasons for which the test is being performed. You will be asked to undress above the waist and be provided a gown for your comfort and privacy. The echocardiogram is performed on a padded table while you are lying flat or often on your left side. Pleas notify the sonographer if you have any condition in which lying down for the test will eb uncomfortable. Three electrodes will be attached by small patches to your chest to monitor your heart rhythm during the test.
The Echocardiogram: The sonographer will place a small amount of warm gel on your chest and obtain images of your beating heart with a hand-held probe called a transducer. Different locations on your chest and upper abdomen are used to obtain all of the necessary images. The test usually takes about 30 minutes. You will receive the results of your echocardiogram within 1-2 days.
Echocardiography is available from 8:00 am until 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and includes availability of Contrast Echo (for patients with poor acoustic resolution) as well as “Bubble” studies to evaluate for intracardiac shunts. Studies are performed daily by an experienced full-time registered diagnostic cardiac sonographer, utilizing the latest in G.E. Healthcare echocardiography equipment and digital reading station, the G.E. Vivid-i. Dr. Hayek is one of approximately 2,500 Board-Certified Echocardiographers nationwide, and he interprets and reports all studies within 24 hours.