3 Things To Know About An Upcoming Echocardiogram

An echocardiogram is a medical test that creates live images of your heart via the use of sound waves. Your doctor may recommend an echocardiogram to obtain more information about your heart, such as whether there are any blood clots in its chambers or if the valves and if the arteries are functioning correctly. If an echocardiogram is in your future, here are a few things you should know. 

1. An Echocardiogram Is Ordered After a Problem Is Suspected

Echocardiograms are usually scheduled once your doctor suspects that something is wrong or irregular with your heart. For example, during a routine physical, your doctor may use a stethoscope and realize that your heart isn't beating regularly or as expected.

An echocardiogram will reveal if there's a physiological reason behind your irregular heartbeat. If your arteries are starting to clog (one potential reason for an irregular heartbeat), an echocardiogram would uncover this information. Once your doctor knows why your heart isn't functioning as expected, they can suggest an appropriate procedure or medication.

2. Echocardiograms Are Non-Invasive

One advantage of an echocardiogram is that it's a noninvasive procedure that quickly allows your doctor to learn more about the functioning of your heart. You're usually awake during the procedure, and no incisions or surgery are necessary. Most types of echocardiograms involve placing electrodes on your chest and then using a transducer (an ultrasound wand used for this procedure) on the outside of your body.

There is one procedure that requires sedation. In situations where your doctor needs to obtain more images of the back of your heart, a procedure known as a transesophageal echocardiogram may be used. During a transesophageal echocardiogram, your doctor will numb your throat and guide a small transducer down your throat and through your esophagus to obtain the necessary images. 

After a transesophageal echocardiogram, you'll be a little groggy and will need to recruit someone to drive you home. There is a minimal recovery period, and most patients only experience a slightly sore throat. 

3. There Is Little Risk Associated With an Echocardiogram

Another advantage of an echocardiogram is that it's low-risk to the patient. No radiation is used during the procedure. Depending on the specifics of your procedure, you may receive a dye injection for your medical professional to produce images of your heart. This may pose a risk of an allergic reaction, but contrast injections aren't always used for an echocardiogram.

There may be a little discomfort when the technician removes your electrodes, but it's comparable to removing a Band-Aid. 

Contact an echocardiography professional to learn more.