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What is the Echocardiogram | Diseases and conditions: Medical tests.

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Echocardiogram

The Echocardiogram is a test that is used to visualize the structure of the heart and thus to study its hemodynamic performance, i.e. its ability to pump blood. Thanks to it can be diagnosed accurately diseases cardiac, congenital or acquired, and it allows you to classify them according to their intensity and origin. The test has the same basis as other ultrasound: the emission of ultrasound throughout the body that bounce and are collected with the same device.
It's a very young test, because it was invented in the 20th century, and can not name a single inventor of the technique, since during the last decades there have been many physicians who have perfected it and have expanded its use to many fields of medicine.
In Echocardiogram has special importance the Doppler technique, which was invented in the 1980s and allows you to see not only the cardiac structure, but also the exact speed of the flow of blood inside the heart.
There are several types of echocardiography depending on the technology used. They may be studies at a level, flow, and studies of two dimensions. Usually tend to carry out studies in two or three dimensions, with added flow study. Classic Echocardiogram uses Transthoracic via, i.e., the heart is seen through the holes of the ribs. A special type of echocardiography is the Transesophageal Echocardiogram, which is carried out through the esophagus with a probe. It provides more accurate data, but its implementation is complex, and so different, that is considered an independent test.
The doctor who performs this test is the cardiologist, who will be well trained to perform the technique correctly. It is not an expensive test, but its interpretation can be difficult sometimes, and must always be accompanied by a good full medical study using clinical interview and physical examination. It's a test completely safe, simple, and convenient to the physician and the patient. Today it is a test routine in many hospitals, including children.

When an Echocardiogram is done

The Echocardiogram is useful when the following diseases are suspected:
Valvular heart disease: so called diseases of the heart valves. Basically, there may be two problems, that the valves are not open enough (stenosis), or that are not properly closed (shortcomings). In the valvular stenosis is seen as blood is unable to pass through a small hole. In the valvular insufficiencies blood will go well, but then regurgitates the previous cavities. In both cases you will listen to a heart murmur.
Heart failure: when the heart is weakened by age, a heart attack, or other reasons, its contraction may be insufficient and does not pump blood properly. The Echocardiogram allows the study of the blood pressure within the ventricles and Atria, being a simple test for the study of this disease.
Cardiomyopathies: are diseases of the heart muscle itself. We can divide them into three types: dilated, Hypertrophic and restrictive. In the hypertrophic heart has more thickened muscle and is more potent than normal, but also relaxes worse and stored less blood. In the dilated it is able to store lots of blood, but he has weak and thin walls. The restrictive the heart is hard, you can not relax, but its force of contraction is normal.
Arrhythmias: Although arrhythmias are power outages of the heart and its study is based on other tests such as ECG or holter, Echocardiogram allows to see the mechanical manifestations of arrhythmias. For example, an atrial fibrillation we would see as the Atria have a constant tremor without reaching the contract at any time.
Endocarditis: heart valve infections can be studied by echocardiography. There are warts that can be attached to the valves and hindering blood flow.
Embolism: when embolisms happen anywhere in the body (for example, an Embolic brain stroke), must be an Echocardiogram to check the origin of thrombi in the heart, as it tends to be frequent.
Pericarditis and pericardial effusion: this test permits the study of the pericardium, a membrane that lines the heart to protect and lubricate it. Motives that may change are many, it tends to be by viral infections in young people and, in older people, it can occur in context of tuberculosis or cancer metastasis.
Congenital heart disease: the study of cardiac malformations has revolutionized thanks to echocardiography. Thanks to it, many newly born them can be detected structural alterations early, and be candidates for surgical repairs. Some of the most frequent congenital cardiopathies are tetralogy of Fallot, atrial septal defect (ASD), Ventricular septal defect (VSD).

Preparation for the Echocardiogram

If you are performing an Echocardiogram these are the issues you should keep in mind to go well prepared to test:
Duration: the echo takes about 10-20 minutes. This time is usually sufficient to study all parts of the heart.
Income: Echocardiogram can be performed in a hospital or outpatient center without requiring entry. After the test, which lasts a few minutes, you can go back to your normal life.
Is necessary to be accompanied?: do not need to be accompanied.
Drugs: don't need to take any prior medication. You should tell your doctor all the medicines taken regularly, especially if you take drugs for epilepsy, psychiatric illnesses, antiarrhythmics, relaxing muscular, antiplatelet, anticoagulant, or anti-inflammatory, but will never have to be suspended for testing.
Food: it is not necessary to remain in fasting prior to testing or after.
Clothes: you can go to the quote from the test with the same clothes every day. Perhaps will ask you you to discover its top of the trunk so study the heart easily, therefore, seeks to take a shirt or t-shirt that can be easily removed.
Documents: bring the steering wheel which shows the performance of the test. You have to carry the health insurance card and medical history on diseases to study, if you have them, although the doctor will already have it with him. It can give you a document after the test.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: the Echocardiogram is not contraindicated in pregnancy or lactation. Some test data can be altered, since pregnancy modifies the physiological functioning of the heart.
Contraindications: do not exist.

The Echocardiogram is done

First, the doctor will assess if it may be useful to perform the Echocardiogram. To do this it will make you a series of questions about your day to day and your illness, and then you will explore, giving special importance to the auscultation of the heart and lungs. Then it will quote you one day for the test and you will explain the basic measures that you need to know to submit yourself to it. You won't need to sign any document, and Echocardiogram does not entail any risk to the patient.
When you arrive at the hospital and passes to the test room ask you you to discover the top of the trunk. You tumbarás on a stretcher looking up and the doctor will get you a gel in the chest - which can be a little cold-, and thanks to him the Ultrasound will easily reach the surface of the skin and can penetrate into the body.
Once you are ready they will support you in the chest a transducer, which is the transmitter and ultrasonic receiver that allows to visualize the heart, and has the size of a mobile phone. The doctor will move this transducer by sliding it into the skin of the chest, and sometimes by pressing a little against the ribs. It will look for holes through the ribs where the ultrasound can pass without problems.
Will be checking all the structures of the heart one by one: valves, Atria, ventricles, aorta, veins, etc. Of each of these parties shall make lengths, areas, and will consider the speed of the blood and the amount that passes through each place. It is a detailed study you need a previous training that can last for years.
As for the study you will not do anything. It may be that sometimes the doctor asks you to you inspires deep or that breath you anymore. It seeks to heed her instructions to facilitate the work.
After testing the transducer will be removed and they give you paper so that you clean the skin gel. You can then dress, pick up your things and leave. Sometimes they ask you to wait a few minutes until they drafted the report that you can give at the moment.

Complications of Echocardiogram

The ECHO does not have complications because a test is non-invasive, which does not represent any risk for people who are subjected to it. Anecdotally, have been sometimes described cases of allergies to the gel applied to the home, but are delimited and mild skin allergies.

Results of the Echocardiogram

Throughout the test the doctor aims data that will be used later to write the report. At the same time that the test you can see these measurements, but it is virtually impossible to analyze them because it takes time and dedication to study the different parameters at the same time.
The cardiologist will analyze the different magnitudes. If they are increased or decreased, they may have a meaning. Few times a single datum is used to give a diagnosis, usually several altered measurements, together with the clinical history and pulmonary auscultation, are bringing the final diagnosis.
Within the report can come images of different parts of the heart. They are very difficult to interpret images, but a doctor is able to see the tiny changes that indicate structural heart disease. Another possibility is that they delivered you a CD with the videos of the study; This is especially useful to show the heart flow alterations, because with a fixed image, not even the specific moment when occurs, or their variations in time they can be seen.
You can go to pick up the results of the Echocardiogram to the cardiologist who prescribed you the test. On that date it explain the alterations that have been throughout the study. It may necessary to perform more tests that determine better diagnosis, such as an Transesophageal Echocardiogram or catheterization. The treatment options will explain you and will recommend you the most appropriate.
Published for educational purposes
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