What is Echocardiography?

Dr Foram Bhuta

Dr Foram Bhuta

BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery), 10 years of experience

January 5, 2022 Heart Diseases 433 Views

English हिन्दी Bengali

What is the meaning of Echocardiography?

A test that uses sound waves to create live images of the heart in motion is known as echocardiography. The image obtained is known as an echocardiogram (echo). Echocardiography allows the doctor to monitor how the heart and valves are functioning. The procedure is non-invasive, does not use any radiation, and usually has no side effects. In this article, we will be discussing in detail echocardiography.

  • What is the purpose of Echocardiography?
  • What are the symptoms that indicate the need for Echocardiography?
  • What are the different types of Echocardiograms?
  • What is the diagnostic procedure before Echocardiography?
  • How to prepare for Echocardiography?
  • What is the procedure of Echocardiography?
  • How to care after Echocardiography?
  • What are the risks of Echocardiography?
  • What is the cost of Echocardiography in India?

What is the purpose of Echocardiography?

Echocardiography is used for the following reasons:

  • Determination of how well the heart is pumping blood
  • Assess the reason for an abnormal electrocardiogram (ECG), which indicates an abnormal electrical activity of the heart
  • Location of blood clots or tumors
  • For the diagnosis of heart diseases, such as stiffening of the heart muscle, weak pumping action of the heart, leaky heart valves, blocked heart valves, and enlargement of heart chambers
  • Diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension (increased pressure of blood affecting the arteries in the heart and lungs)
  • Identification of congenital heart conditions (conditions present at birth) in infants and young children
  • Monitoring how well the heart responds to different types of heart treatments like pacemakers, artificial valve placements, or medications for heart failure (when the heart fails to pump sufficient blood to the rest of the body) ( Know more about- What is Pacemaker Surgery? )

An echocardiogram can help in obtaining images that can provide information about:

  • Changes in the size of the heart, dilation, or thickening of the heart muscle
  • Blood clots in the chambers of the heart
  • Fluid in the sac surrounding the heart
  • Problems with the aorta (the main artery connecting to the heart)
  • Problems with the relaxing function or pumping function of the heart
  • Pressure in the heart
  • Problems with the heart valve functions

What are the symptoms that indicate the need for Echocardiography?

The symptoms of heart disorders, that may require an echocardiogram include:

  • Shortness of breath 
  • Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
  • Swelling of legs
  • High blood pressure or low blood pressure ( Know more about- What is Hypertension or High blood pressure? )
  • Abnormal ECG results
  • Heart murmurs (unusual sound between heartbeats)

What are the different types of Echocardiograms?

The different types of echocardiograms include:

  • Transthoracic echocardiogram:
    • This is the most common type of echocardiogram test.
    • It involves placing an ultrasound wand, known as a transducer, on the outside of the chest near the heart region.
    • The device will send sound waves through the chest, into the heart.
    • A gel is applied to the chest to help the sound waves in traveling well.
    • The sound waves bounce off the heart to create images of the heart structures on a screen.
  • Transesophageal echocardiogram:
    • A thin transducer is attached to the end of a long tube.
    • The tube is swallowed and inserted into the esophagus (food pipe), which connects the mouth and stomach.
    • This type of echocardiogram provides more detailed images of the heart than a transthoracic echocardiogram.
  • Doppler ultrasound:
    • This type of ultrasound helps in checking the flow of blood.
    • Sound waves are generated at specific frequencies to determine how the sound waves bounce off and then return to the transducer.
    • Colored Doppler ultrasounds may be used to map the velocity and direction of the blood flow in the heart. The blood flowing towards the transducer appears red in color, while the blood flowing away appears blue in color.
    • A Doppler ultrasound helps in diagnosing problems with the valves of the heart, or holes in the walls of the heart, and assessment of how the blood travels through the heart.
  • Three-dimensional echocardiogram:
    • This is a 3D echocardiogram that is used for the following reasons:
    • For assessing the functionality of the valves in individuals having heart failure
    • To diagnose heart disorders in infants and children
    • For assessing the heart function in 3D
    • To plan a heart valve surgery or structural interventional surgery
    • To obtain images of the complex structures within the heart
  • Stress echocardiogram:
    • An echocardiogram can be performed as a part of the stress test.
    • A physical exercise, like walking on a treadmill, is performed and the heart rate, blood pressure, and electrical activity of the heart is monitored.
    • A transthoracic echocardiogram is taken before and after the exercise.

Stress tests are used for diagnosing:

    • Heart failure 
    • Ischemic heart disease (heart problems caused due to narrowed heart arteries)
    • Coronary heart disease (blockage of the arteries that supply blood to the heart) ( Know more about- What is Coronary Angiography? )
    • Problems that affect the valves of the heart
  • Fetal echocardiogram:
    • An unborn baby’s heart can be viewed using this test.
    • This test is normally performed at approximately 18 to 22 weeks of pregnancy.
    • Radiation is not used during this procedure and is therefore not harmful to the baby or mother. ( Know more about- What is Pediatric Cardiac Surgery? )

What is the diagnostic procedure before Echocardiography?

  • Physical examination: The doctor will examine the patient physically and ask the patient about his/her symptoms and medical history.
  • Chest x-ray: It helps the doctor to view the heart and lungs.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): This test helps in recording the electrical activity of the heart and to diagnose various heart problems. An abnormal ECG may indicate the need for an echocardiogram.

How to prepare for Echocardiography?

  • The transthoracic echocardiogram procedure usually requires no special preparation. You can eat, drink, and take your regular medications as usual.
  • In case of a transesophageal echocardiogram, you will be asked to not eat or drink anything eight hours before the procedure.
  • In case of a transesophageal echocardiogram, arrange for help to ride back home as you will not be able to drive back home due to the medication that you will receive during the procedure.  
  • In case of a stress echocardiogram, wear comfortable shoes and loose clothes that are comfortable to exercise in.
  • Tell the doctor if you have any medications, supplements, or herbs that you are taking currently.
  • Tell the doctor about any medical conditions or illnesses that you have.
  • Tell your doctor if you have a pacemaker or any other implanted cardiac device.

What is the procedure of Echocardiography?

The procedure for a standard transthoracic echocardiogram is as follows:

  • The patient is asked to undress from the waist up and lie on the examination bed or table.
  • Sticky patches or electrodes are attached to the body for detecting and conducting the electrical currents of the heart.
  • A gel is applied to the transducer to improve the conduction of sound waves.
  • The transducer is moved back and forth over the chest to record the images of sound wave echoes from the heart.
  • One may hear a pulsing “whoosh”, which is the recording of the blood flow through the heart.
  • The patient may be asked to breathe in a certain manner or to roll onto the left side while performing the test.

The procedure for a transesophageal echocardiogram is as follows:

  • The throat is numbed using a gel or spray.
  • A sedative is given to the patient to help him/her relax.
  • The tube containing the transducer is guided down the throat into the esophagus and positioned for obtaining the images of the heart.
  • Most of the echocardiograms take less than one hour to complete.

How to care after Echocardiography?

  • Most people can resume their regular activities after having a transthoracic echocardiogram.
  • In the case of people having a transesophageal cardiogram, the patient may need to stay in the hospital for a couple of hours after the test for observation.
  • The patient may have a sore throat for a few hours after a transesophageal echocardiogram.
  • Patients who have received a sedative before the test, should avoid driving for many hours after an echocardiogram.
  • Most people can resume their normal diet and exercise immediately after the procedure.

What are the risks of Echocardiography?

Echocardiograms are generally considered to be safe, as unlike other imaging techniques it does not use any radiation. However, some risks that could be associated with echocardiography include:

  • Allergic reaction to the contrast
  • Discomfort during the removal of the electrodes from the skin
  • Irritation of the esophagus
  • Esophageal perforation (puncturing of the esophagus)
  • Sore throat
  • Drowsiness (if a sedative is used)
  • Irregular heartbeat leading to a heart attack (in a stress echocardiogram) ( Know more about- What is Heart Attack? )

What is the cost of Echocardiography in India?

The total cost of echocardiography in India can range from around INR 2,500 to INR 3,500, depending on the type of procedure done. However, many prominent hospital doctors in India specialize in echocardiography. But the cost varies across different hospitals. 

If you are coming from abroad, apart from the cost of echocardiography, there will be an additional cost of living in a hotel and the cost of local travel. So, the total cost of echocardiography in India comes to a total of INR 5,000 to INR 7,000. 

We hope that we could answer all your questions regarding echocardiography through this article.

If you need more information about echocardiography, you can contact a Cardiologist.

We only aim to provide you with information through this article. We do not recommend any medication or treatment to anyone. Only a qualified doctor can give you the best advice and correct treatment plan. 

Over 1 Million Users Visit Us Monthly

Join our email list to get the exclusive unpublished health content right in your inbox


    captcha