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What is an Echocardiogram and Why Do I Need One?

By: Dr. Aalya H. Crowl

An echocardiogram allows your physician to assess the structure and function of the heart and can assist with diagnosing cardiac disease and monitoring disease progression.  An echocardiogram is a detailed examination of the heart that takes a short time to perform and can be done in an outpatient setting. Let’s take a closer look at this specific type of exam and determine why your doctor may order this exam for you.

About the Echocardiogram

An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart that gives qualitative and quantitative data about cardiac structure and function.  For the exam, the patient lies on a stretcher for 30-40 minutes while pictures are taken via ultrasound. Ultrasound technology uses sound waves to take pictures of the whole heart, including the valves, chambers and the pericardium (the structure around the heart).  The patient is not exposed to any radiation during this test. 

An echocardiogram demonstrates how a patient’s heart is functioning by measuring the pumping function (ejection fraction) of the left and right ventricles.  The four cardiac valves are also visualized and examined for tightening (stenosis) or leaking (regurgitation) of the valves.    

Why Does a Doctor Order an Echocardiogram?

The echocardiogram is one of the most common cardiac tests.  Your primary care physician or cardiologist will typically order an echocardiogram if they hear a murmur, if you are experiencing new symptoms suggestive of heart disease, or if you have a known history of heart disease. 

A trained technician performs the echocardiogram and the images are then interpreted by a cardiologist.  Test results are sent to the ordering physician or directly to the patient. 

To find out if an echocardiogram might be right for you, contact us today.

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Published June 14, 2019

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