Commonly known as “Echo”, “Sonogram”, or “Ultrasound” of the heart, this type of cardiac test uses non-invasive ultrasound waves (high speed sound signals) to obtain information about your heart. Many times this is a very helpful test and allows your cardiologist understand a great deal about the function of your heart, any signs of damage in the past, and will help guide your cardiovascular treatment.

  • During the exam an ultrasound probe, which is blunt with a rounded end, will be pressed on the chest over the region of the heart. Ultrasound jelly will be applied to the probe which is necessary for the images to be obtained.
  • An echocardiogram is performed in the office by a certified technician specifically in this field of ultrasonography (sonographer). There may be a few parts of the exam which can be less comfortable due to the probe being pressed on the chest to get detailed pictures, though it is very unusual that there is any pain. Do not hesitate to let the technician know if you are uncomfortable at any point!
  • In some instances a small IV may need to be placed int he arm so that the sonographer can watch saline mixed with a small amount of microscopic air bubbles flow through the pumping chambers of the heart while imaging your heart.

Your doctor may order an echocardiogram for a variety of reasons. Many other things can be picked up on echocardiography which makes it such a great tool for helping your cardiologist understand your heart’s health!

Overall the structure and function of the heart is studied during the exam. Below is some of the information which may be obtained.

Squeezing or pumping function of the heart (systolic function)

  • If you have heard he term “E.F.”, this stands for Ejection Fraction, and is how the pumping efficiency of the heart is described.
  • Typically an Ejection Fraction greater than 55% is considered normal.
  • Congestive heart failure can result from lower than normal squeezing function or ejection fraction.

Relaxing or filling function of the heart (diastolic function)

  • The ability of the heart to relax and fill with blood can change over time as the heart “stiffens” with age.
  • This may cause symptoms in some patients, frequently shortness of breath. Other problems however, may lead to issues with the relaxation or “filling phase” of the heart including heart attacks among others.

Valve disease: Valve problems typically comes in two main varieties, which in turn can be due to several different problem:

  • Leaking of the Heart Valves (Regurgitation) This problem results in too much blood flowing backwards across a heart valve. This can lead to heart failure, enlargement of heart chambers as well as rhythm disorders, among other troublesome issues. A mild degree of leaking is typical for some heart valves so don’t worry if you see that in your report.
  • Tightening of the Heart Valves (Stenosis) This tends to occur when a heart valve becomes too thickened and/or hardened most commonly through deposits of calcium over time. This leads to trouble with the flow of blood forward from one chamber to another and pressure builds up behind the affected valve. Some people are born with stenotic valves which can cause problems early in life.
  • Your cardiologist will review the images recorded by the sonographer and interpret the exam afterward. While you may be anxious to know the results, please understand the sonographer is not able to give preliminary results until a cardiologist has looked at the images.
  • Feel free to call the office for results but give at least 24 hours minimum to allow time for review of your study. We appreciate your patience!