Before you can understand what an echocardiography machine is, you first must know what an echocardiogram is. This is a test that takes pictures of your heart using high-frequency sound waves. You may have also heard it being referred to as a diagnostic cardiac ultrasound or more commonly an echocardiography.
The sound waves create images of the heart’s valves, walls, chambers, as well as the blood vessels that are attached to it. The probe that is used is known as a transducer and it is this tool that is moved across your chest. It produces the sound waves that then bounce off of your heart creating the echo back to the transducer. The waves are transformed into pictures that are then viewed via a monitor. It’s an entirely safe process and cannot harm you.
Why an Echo May Be Necessary
There are a variety of reasons why someone may need an echocardiogram and it is generally to check the function of your heart.
The test can help a doctor determine:
- The shape and size of the heart, including the walls movement and thickness.
- The strength of your heart’s pumping.
- How your heart is moving.
- Whether the heart valves are in proper working condition.
- Whether blood is leaking back through the valves.
- If the patient is experiencing narrowing of the heart valves.
- If there is any time of infectious growth or tumor around the heart valves.
The tests can also determine whether there are issues with the heart’s outer lining, issues related to large blood vessels, blood clots, or abnormal holes.
What an Echo Looks Like
The process is fairly straight forward and there is no special preparation required for it. Trained technicians carry out the echo test and it tends to take around an hour.
The patient will lie on a table and have electrodes attached to the chest. These wires are connected to the echocardiography machine and will track the patient’s heartbeat throughout the testing process.
- The test is completed in a dark room so that the technician can see the video monitor clearly.
- The technician will place gel on the patient’s chest, this simply allows for the sound waves to easily pass through the skin.
- The technician may also request for the patient to move positions or hold their breath for a moment to get clearer pictures.
- The transducer is passed over the patient’s chest to produce the echo and the sound waves are converted into images that then appear on the video monitor.
- The images are recorded so the doctor can review them later.
Echocardiography machines come in a variety of styles and sizes, and now there are portable options to make the process as simple as possible. This is especially helpful for doctors who may need to make house calls in rural areas or operate small clinics. Often patients need an echocardiograph completed quickly and there isn’t time to wait for a hospital appointment to become available. It allows doctors to offer their patients an improved healthcare service.