What Is an Echocardiogram

Echocardiogram is a kind of ultra-sound designed to examine the heart. It is an advanced ultra-sound capable of providing finer details than other medical scanning methods. It works on the principle of echo and is of two types – M-Echo and 2-D Echo.

M-Echo is used to obtain single dimensional images of the heart. Heart, as we know, consists of chambers called auricles and ventricles. A network of blood vessels runs through these chambers reaching various organs of the body. 2-D echo, as the name suggests, is a two-dimensional slice of beating heart. It provides clearer picture of blood vessels running through ventricles along with exact dimensions of chambers and valves.

An electrocardiogram is obtained under a physician’s supervision at a hospital. Procedure is very simple. Patient is asked to remove upper clothing and is made to slip into a gown or covered with sheet to ensure privacy as in case of female patients. After making patient comfortable on bed, electrodes or sticky patches are attached to chest and shoulders before connecting them to wires. A colourless gel is applied on the chest and then connected to electro transducer. This setting is complete for starting an echocardiography.

The echocardiogram of various angles and views of heart is recorded by echo-technologist. Cardiac events (pumping in and out of blood) from blood vessels are captured. Patient may be asked to move from back and sides to obtain various views of the organ. Constant and slow breathing is advised to the patient to obtain clearer pictures.

This process of capturing an echocardiogram is known as echocardiography. Electrocardiogram is popularly known as ECG or EKG. ECG determines volume, thickness and size of the walls. Walls dimensions determine the severity of disease patient is suffering from. A patient with long history of hypertension tends to have thickened and dilated walls.

ECG is advised when a patient complains about severe chest pain and uneven breathing. It can read clearly the poor pumping of blood from the heart. This condition arises due to cardiac arrests. Patients suffering from cardiomyopathy, name for condition of poor pumping of blood, have slow movements of heart. Another condition known as left ventricle aneurysm is characterized by bulging on opposite side of LV. In cases of heart attack, the affected areas show no movement at all. ECG determines the percentage of blockage veins are suffering from and is advised treatment accordingly. Vein grafting or bye-pass surgery is performed to restore the normal movements of the heart.

The Doppler technology along with ECG is used to assess the condition of valves more efficiently. Doppler Effect helps in determining the leakages across valves. Doppler deals with the velocity and direction of blood flow across the mitral valve whereas ECG will ascertain prolapsed mitral valve. Such detailed findings help cardiologist take crucial decisions related to surgery.

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