An echocardiogram (echo or ECG) is “the most cost-effective, safe and portable tool for cardiac diagnosis” according to Sharon Mulvagh’s recent article in Cardiovascular Business. Cardiologists also use echos to check heart function.
Echo uses sound waves to make pictures of your beating heart—the atria, ventricles, valves, aorta, arteries, and veins attached to your heart. From the echo, your cardiologist can see the size and shape of your heart, the thickness and movement of your heart muscle, how well the chambers and valves in your heart are working, and the force with which your heart contracts. This information allows your cardiologist to determine if your heart and valves are working correctly and shows the health of your heart muscle and blood vessels in and around the heart. Your cardiologist can calculate the ejection fraction and identify any problems with your heart, valves, or blood vessels. This is why echos are so useful.
The most useful diagnoses for echo are listed below. Familiarize yourself with these conditions most useful for echo so you can discuss with your cardiologist.
- Acute myocardial infarction or heart attack
- Cardiac arrhythmia or abnormal heart rhythms
- Acute cerebrovascular disease or loss of blood flow to the brain such as in a stroke
- Congestive heart failure also called CHF
- Sepsis, a life threatening response to an infection
It is important to remember that echo is not for everyone. The American Society of Echocardiography has published a list of medical conditions, called Choosing Wisely, for which echocardiogram is not appropriate. Review these medical conditions so you can ask questions at your next doctor visit to understand if the recommended procedure is appropriate for your medical condition.
- Read Goal Reversal? Study Suggests Echocardiography Could Have an Underuse Problem
- Learn more about Echocardiograms
- Learn more about Tips for a Successful Doctor Visit After a Heart Disease Diagnosis
- Read the American Society of Echocardiography’s Choosing Wisely list of procedures
- Learn more about How Is Heart Disease Diagnosed?