Examining Your Heart: The Different Types of Echocardiography, Explained

Did you know that the leading cause of death among Americans is heart disease? Experts report that cardiovascular disease-related deaths happen every 36 seconds. That’s about 659,000 people every year.

Today, echocardiograms promote early detection and treatment. There are several different types of echocardiography. Keep reading to learn more.

What Is Echocardiography?

The prefix “echo” comes from the Greek word ἠχώ meaning “reflected sound”. “Cardio” means heart and “graphy” is the English suffix for “a field of study”.

Echocardiography uses sound waves to study the heart from the outside. Sound wave echos are captured using an ultrasound machine.

Have you wondered, “What is an echocardiogram?” It turns the sound waves into real-time moving images.

Your doctor watches how your heart beats and the blood moves. Echocardiography use helps in diagnosing problems such as:

  • Atrial fibrillation: the upper chambers twitch instead of contracting to move blood
  • Prior heart attacks: injured muscles have poor blood flow and contraction
  • Valve stiffness: valves don’t fully open to let the blood through
  • Leaking valves: valves don’t close completely and blood leaks backward
  • Cardiovascular disease: narrowed blood vessels
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: thickened heart’s walls
  • Pericardial effusion: fluid in the sac around the heart

Blood clots also show up in the heart or blood vessels. Clots stop the flow of blood that carries oxygen.

Clots in the brain cause strokes. In the lungs, they can cause a pulmonary embolism that blocks oxygen. A clot in the leg can require amputation.

Types Of Echocardiography

Today different types of echocardiography help diagnose conditions in patients of all ages. It only uses sound waves, so there’s no radiation exposure.

The following provides an overview of the types of echocardiograms.

Fetal Echocardiography

Echocardiography can examine an unborn baby’s heart. This test is usually done around 18 to 22 weeks of pregnancy.

A transducer is a handheld device used by sonographers to collect sound echoes. They put gel on the transducer to increase the echo wave transmission. The transducer is moved over the mother’s stomach.

Stress Echocardiography

A stress echocardiogram is done before and after a stress test. The goal is to see how well the blood flows through your coronary arteries to the heart muscle. The stress test causes the heart rate to increase which can show problems not seen during rest.

Transthoracic Echocardiogram (TTE)

The sonographer moves the transducer over your chest to “look” at your heart. Sometimes an enhancer agent is put in through an IV to give a better picture.

Transesophageal Echocardiography

If the TEE doesn’t show a clear picture of the aorta or heart they’ll do another test. Your doctor may order a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE).

First, you’ll take relaxation medication and they’ll numb your throat. A flexible tube is then passed down your throat and into the esophagus. The transducer in the flexible tube records the sound echoes.

Doppler echocardiography is often used during a TTE or TEE. The doppler bounces sound waves off blood cells. The computer colorizes these echo waves to show changes in the direction and speed of blood flow.

Three-Dimensional Echocardiography is also performed during these procedures. It creates a 3D picture of your heart with increased detail. Doctors often use this to diagnose problems in children.

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The article provided an overview of the types of echocardiography. Now you can discuss this test more confidently. Our site provides answers to your questions.

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