Pictures Of Your Heart

Before you visit the cath lab, your doctor may order an echocardiogram.  This is a common, noninvasive test using sound waves to produce images of your heart.  By letting your doctor see how your heart is beating and pumping blood, it can help identify abnormalities in the heart muscle and valves. 

An echocardiogram also may be ordered as a follow-up if you have undergone a Cath Lab procedure such as an angioplasty.

What to expect

The most common type of echocardiogram is called a transthoracic echocardiogram.  You don’t need to make any special preparations, and you won’t need to be sedated for this noninvasive procedure. 

The test will be conducted in our Radiology department using a standard ultrasound machine.  You’ll be asked to undress from the waist up, and you’ll lie on your left side.  A registered diagnostic cardiac sonographer will attach sticky electrodes to your chest and then use the machine to record ultrasound images of your beating heart.

The procedure takes about 30 minutes to an hour.  While it’s happening, you’ll be able to watch the ultrasound images of your heart.  The sonographer will explain the procedure and what you’re seeing.  Feel free to ask questions. (Just keep in mind, the sonographer isn’t allowed to interpret the images for you or evaluate your medical condition.  That’s your doctor’s job.)

After the procedure is finished, you can get dressed and go back to your normal routine.  The ultrasound images will be evaluated by a qualified physician.  In some cases, the physician may decide you need no further testing.  In other cases, the echocardiogram may lead a diagnostic catheterization procedure or other testing.

Depending on what information your doctor needs, you might undergo a transesophageal echocardiogram. In this procedure, your throat will be numbed, and you’ll be given medications to help you relax. Then a flexible tube is guided down your throat and into your esophagus, in order to obtain detailed images of your heart. 

More about echocardiography 

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