Echocardiography is an ultrasound examination of your heart. You've probably seen ultrasound examinations done on pregnant women that show the growing fetus inside the uterus. The picture isn't always easy to make out, but a picture of a baby is made through the use of sound waves.
A similar process is done with echocardiography, but the picture is of your heart instead. A cardiologist can examine the picture and learn a lot about your heart. Here are some things to know about this type of cardiac testing.
What To Expect During The Test
An echocardiogram is easy to take. You rest on a table in a darkened room throughout the test. You might be positioned on your left side during the test and be instructed to hold your breath occasionally. There is no pain involved. The technician applies gel to the skin over your heart and then moves a small handheld transducer across your chest. The transducer transmits sound waves that bounce back to create a video of your heart on a monitor.
What The Test Reveals
The video shows your heart working in real-time. The doctor will see how well your valves work and how the blood is flowing through your heart. They'll see if your heart is enlarged and if there are any physical abnormalities present. Your cardiologist might order an echocardiogram if you're having chest pain, had a heart attack, or have been diagnosed with heart disease.
The information received helps the doctor understand your heart health better and can even help the doctor make a diagnosis. Echocardiography is often done along with other types of cardiac testing to get the most information possible about how your heart is functioning.
The cardiologist may not be present when the test is done. Instead, a technician performs the test and the cardiologist reviews the video later. You probably won't get the results of your test the same day.
How An Echocardiogram Is Done With Stress Testing
Echocardiography can be done alone, but it's common to have this test done when you have a stress test. In that instance, you'll have an echocardiogram before and after the stress test. This shows your doctor how your heart reacts to the stress you might encounter when you climb stairs or do other forms of physical exertion. Echocardiogram stress testing could uncover the reason you have chest pain with exercise or exertion.
During the stress test, you ride a bike or walk on a treadmill to get your heart rate up. This could affect your heart and trigger cardiac symptoms. You'll be supervised the entire time, and the test will be stopped if necessary, but it could help your doctor gather the information they need to treat your heart condition more effectively.