Echocardiogram, also known as ECHO, is an ultrasound of the heart to know its inner workings and to assess the condition of the heart.
It is mostly an initial examination to rule out abnormalities in the heart effectively. In the event of any suspicious activity the patient is further subject to detailed investigations.
Echocardiogram is similar to an ultrasonography, where a patient’s chest is smeared with transparent gel and an ultrasound transducer (sound sensitive device), is placed and moved very slowly over the heart. This instrument sends out high frequency sound waves and receives back an ‘echo’ of these waves as reflected by the heart. These echoes are recorded on a moving sheet of paper by the ultrasound machine, which is interpreted by cardiologists to check the proper functioning of the heart valves. This procedure is also known as Transthoracic echocardiogram, it is essential in initial diagnosis of conditions such as coronary artery disease, congenital heart disease, heart failure, valvular heart disease etc.
With recent development in medical equipment, another procedure known as the Transoesophageal Echocardiogram is also used in detailed diagnosis of the condition of the heart. It is a procedure similar to endoscopy consisting of a miniature transducer at the end of a long flexible tube with controls on the other end to guide the probe in through the throat in order to capture clearer images for detailed analysis of the heart.
With this indispensable tool, the ability to obtain 3-dimensional images of the heart using a group of minute transducers probed into the heart cavity is invaluable. With appropriate computer programs, one can view cross sections of the heart as well as make a detailed study of the conditions of the heart and determine its treatment.
This procedure is simple and non-evasive; the patient’s throat will be sprayed with a local anaesthetic to avoid discomfort.