An echo sends sound waves that are reflected or 'Echo' against structures in the heart and are recorded by the hand held probe connected to the Echo computer which builds a detailed image of the heart. This test examines the structure and function of the heart.
It uses the same principles as an Echo scan used in pregnancy.
The Echo Test
A probe coated with lubricating jelly is placed on the chest and a high frequency sound pulse is then transmitted through the skin. The probe picks up the echoes reflected from different areas of the heart and a picture is seen on the computer screen.
What can an echocardiogram show?
The echocardiogram provides detailed information on the structure and function of the heart and the heart valves.
It is often requested if you are complaining of being short of breath or have recently had a heart attack or if you are suspected of having impaired cardiac function.
It is also used to assess patients with heart murmurs which might indicate a problem with one of the valves.
A stress Echo is undertaken whilst the heart is stressed - by increasing the heart rate by exercise or with medication.
During exercise the heart requires more blood and oxygen. If the flow is limited by deposits of cholesterol which restricts the blood flow, the area of the heart muscle affected may not contract so strongly. The contraction of the heart under stress is compared to the contraction at rest and any differences might indicate a narrowing of a coronary artery.
TOE - Trans Oesophageal Echocardiogram
This test provides a more detailed examination of the heart valves. Detailed pictures of the heart are taken from the oesophagus (gullet) which lies behind the heart. A mild sedative is usually used to help you relax and a local anesthetic agent is sprayed onto the back of your throat. A narrow flexible tube with an Echo probe mounted within the end is inserted into your gullet (oesophagus) whilst you swallow. Pictures of your heart are recorded and the tube is withdrawn.