An echocardiogram uses high frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to create a moving picture of your heart as it works.
Depending the type of test you have, your doctor can learn about the size, shape and movement of your heart muscle. An echocardiogram also shows how the heart valves are working and how blood flows through your heart, giving your doctor valuable information about your arteries.
The Echocardiography Laboratory at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute
The Echocardiography Lab at Cedars-Sinai has been at the forefront of new technologies to improve the precision and accuracy of image readings.
It currently performs and interprets more than 15,000 heart scans each year. The lab also conducts stress tests and coronary ultrasound studies for the benefit of patients undergoing diagnosis for cardiac-related diseases and disorders.
An advanced digital system in the Echocardiography Laboratory allows doctors easy access to echocardiographic images through the Internet. The lab is actively involved in telemedicine (delivery of medical services by remote telecommunications) locally and around the world. The lab operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week to handle not only routine requests for tests but also to allow doctors to make faster diagnoses in emergency medical situations.
Virtually all of our physician echo readers are certified by the American College of Cardiology and the National Board of Echocardiography. The 10 echocardiographic technicians have specialized training in echocardiography and more than three years of experience. Eight have more than 10 years experience.
How Echocardiographs Are Done
A device called a transducer, which produces the sound waves, is moved over your chest using a jelly-like substance on your skin to conduct the sound waves.. The sound waves bounce off the heart and return to the transducer as echoes. At times, the technician may ask you to take a breath or exhale or to hold your breath for a few moments. You may also be asked to turn on your side. These steps may be needed so that the transducer can be angled precisely to get the image needed.
The echoes that the transducer receives are converted into images on a television monitor or can be recorded on videotape or CD. It may take 45 to 60 minutes to do an echocardiogram.
Types of Echocardiographs
There are variations of an echocardiogram that are done to provide your doctor different types of information, including a:
- Stress and dobutamine echocardiograms
- Pacing echocardiograms
- Transesophageal Echocardiography (TEE)
- Intracardiac echocardiography (ICE), a relatively new technique that allows doctors to monitor the heart during invasive procedures. This type of echocardiography has made it possible for surgeons to correct holes in the heart (atrial septal defect) in adults using a balloon device instead of traditional open heart surgery. Intracadiac echocardiography is also being used to help electrophysiologists treat complex arrhythmias.
- Intravascular ultrasound (IVUS), which produces ultrasound images of the inside of blood vessels. It is used with other types of imaging to look at coronary artery blockages and to see how well different treatments for those blockages are working.