The echocardiogram is a medical imaging technique that uses ultrasound to visualize the inside of the body. Ultrasound of the heart, or echocardiography, makes it possible to observe all the structures of the heart, namely the valves and cavities (atria and ventricles). It also provides an overview of the tone of the heart muscle.
Ultrasound is a painless and non-invasive examination, so it is prescribed as a first-line treatment when the doctor suspects a heart defect.
This examination is recommended to:
• Confirm the cardiac origin of symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain or discomfort
• Assess the impact of a disease (such as pulmonary hypertension)
• Diagnose a heart defect or heart muscle disease
• Diagnose heart failure
• Investigate or evaluate a heart valve abnormality
• Look for the presence of a clot
• Monitor the evolution and estimate the severity of a previously diagnosed heart condition
• Study the pericardium or thoracic aorta
Ultrasound of the heart is often combined with Doppler, an ultrasound-based technique that simultaneously visualizes blood flow in the heart and at the valves and coronary arteries.
Duration of hospital stay
1 to 2 days.
The patient can go home after the echocardiogram.
Average length of stay
1 to 3 days.
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The examination is performed by a cardiologist in his/her office or in the hospital. It is not necessary to fast except for the performance of an ultrasound by the esophageal route, which requires swallowing a probe to visualize the posterior part of the heart.
Ultrasound is the process of exposing the tissues or organs you want to observe to ultrasound waves.
Cardiac ultrasound or echocardiogram lasts 10 to 30 minutes and can be done in two ways:
• By transthoracic route: the probe is placed on the chest (the patient must be bare-chested) after applying a gel to the skin to facilitate the propagation of ultrasound. The patient will be lying down, but the doctor may ask you to turn on your back or side to better visualize some structures.
• ** By transoesophageal route**: the probe is associated with an endoscope (flexible tube) and introduced into the esophagus to get closer to the heart and obtain better, more accurate images. This examination is a little unpleasant because the probe must be inserted through the mouth (after local anaesthesia and sedation). The transesophageal pathway is also used in people who are overweight or have lung disease that can interfere with transthoracic image quality.
Patients who have had a transesophageal echocardiogram may experience some discomfort in the throat after the procedure.
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