Through the use of ultrasound technology, echocardiography (also called echocardiogram, echo, EKG, or ECG) helps the cardiologist inspect the heart and determine how well it is functioning, especially after a heart attack. The cardiologists at Cardiology Associates and Saint Mary’s use a variety of these diagnostic technologies, some of which are performed at the Cardiology Associates office as well as in the hospital.
These tools include:
Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE)
The most commonly used EKG is a painless procedure that measures the electrical activity of the heartbeat. A device called a transducer picks up echoes of ultrasound waves as they bound off different areas of the heart, and a computer interprets these waves. Sensors (electrodes) that are attached to your chest and limbs send the ultrasound waves. The TTE test helps cardiologists evaluate many issues, such as valve health, unexplained chest pain, heart murmurs, blood clots and more.
Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE)
As with TTE, TEE uses high-frequency ultrasound waves of the heart. In the TEE test, however, the transducer is attached to a thin tube that passes through the patient’s mouth and down the esophagus. The test records highly detailed images of the upper heart chambers, which are near the esophagus area. If you should need a TEE, a sedative and anesthetic can be used to make you more comfortable.
Exercise stress test
Also called a stress echocardiogram, the stress test is done before and after exercise to check how well your heart handles its workload. This test shows if blood flow to the heart is decreased, a symptom of coronary heart disease. During the test, you are connected to a monitor while walking on a treadmill. Heart rate, breathing and blood pressure are all monitored during and after activity.
Nuclear stress test
Sometimes an exercise stress test alone cannot pinpoint a patient’s cause of chest pain or other heart disease symptom. In those instances, a nuclear stress test may better help determine how well a patient’s blood is flowing into the heart muscle. The test usually involves an injection with radioactive dye which is followed by images being taken while the person is at rest and after activity. It can be used in conjunction with the standard stress test. A nuclear stress test is also called myocardial perfusion scan (MPI).
Holter monitor echocardiogram
At times, an irregular heartbeat may not be evident during an echocardiogram test. If you have a slow, fast or uneven heartbeat, you may need to wear a Holter monitor continuously for one to two days to better determine what is happening with your heart. While wearing it, you can go through your normal activities as the battery-operated device records and measure your heart rhythm activity and electrical signals. You may be asked to also keep a log of what you are doing when symptoms occur.
Cardiac Doppler ultrasound
Similar to echocardiogram, the Doppler ultrasound imaging test helps a cardiologist see how quickly a patient’s blood flows through the heart chambers, heart valves and blood vessels. High-frequency ultrasound waves are bounced off circulating red blood cells during this non-invasive test. Doppler ultrasound can help diagnoses blood clots, venous insufficiency, blocked arteries, peripheral artery disease (PAD), aneurysms and carotid artery stenosis.