Centurion Healthcare

What is an Echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram is a test utilising sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart. This allows the doctor to evaluate how well the heart is beating and pumping blood, helping determine whether any abnormalities in the heart muscle or heart valves are present, as well as assessing risk for heart disease. 

Who needs an Echocardiogram?

If a doctor suspects abnormalities with the valves or chambers of their patient's heart, or its ability to pump, they may suggest an echocardiogram. An echocardiogram can also be used to detect congenital heart defects in unborn babies.

The different types of echocardiograms include:

What needs to be brought to the appointment?

Patients will need to bring their Medicare card to the appointment. For a stress echocardiogram, patients need to bring comfortable walking/running shoes as well as loose/exercise clothing.

What are the risks?

The risks associated with a standard transthoracic echocardiogram are minimal. Some discomfort may be felt when the electrodes (similar to an adhesive bandage) attached to the body are removed.

For transesophageal echocardiogram, some soreness in the throat may be experienced a few hours afterwards. Oxygen levels may be monitored during the test to check for any breathing problems caused by the sedative medication.

For stress echocardiograms, either the exercise or medication may temporarily cause an irregular heartbeat. It is rare for serious complications to occur as a result.

What will the test feel like?

Patients are required to disrobe from the waist up and lie on an examination table or bed on their back. Electrodes are then placed on the body to help detect and conduct the electrical currents of the heart.

For a tranesophageal echocardiogram, a sedative is provided to help patients relax, and a spray or gel is used to numb the throat.

To view the images better, the technician will dim the lights. A “whooshing” sound may be heard throughout the test. This is the machine recording the blood flowing throughout the heart.

The test generally takes less than an hour, but this can vary depending on each patient's condition. For transthoracic echocardiograms, patients may be asked to breathe in a certain way or to roll onto their left side. At times the transducer may be held uncomfortably firmly against the chest. This is sometimes necessary to produce the best images of the heart. 

What happens after the procedure?

If the test results are normal, no further testing may be needed. If the results are of concern, patients may be referred to a cardiologist for further assessment. Treatment will vary, depending on what is found during the exam and the specific signs and symptoms. Sometimes the doctor may suggest a repeat echocardiogram after several months.

The Results

The results of the echocardiogram can reveal many aspects of heart health including: