EKGs (electrocardiograms) are one of the most common tests used to evaluate the electrical activity of your heart. Echocardiograms typically aren’t performed as often — but they can provide a wealth of information, too, especially for patients with specific heart-related issues.
Anthony B. Lewis, MD, FACC, and the team at TLC Medical Group use echocardiograms to gather detailed information about the heart’s structure and function to provide patient-centered care for an array of cardiovascular issues. Here’s how echocardiograms work and when our team might recommend one for your care.
Echocardiograms: the basics
Unlike EKGs that measure the heart’s electrical activity through a series of sticky electrodes, an echocardiogram uses a handheld device called a transducer to send painless, soundless ultrasound waves through your skin. The doctor or technician passes the transducer over your skin, using a gel to ensure the best contact between your skin and the wave-emitting surface of the device.
As the waves make contact with your heart and surrounding structures, they “bounce back” like an echo. The transducer captures the echo and transmits the data to a computer that creates detailed, real-time images.
Echocardiograms are completely painless, they take just a few minutes, and there’s no downtime. After your scan, you can get right back to your normal routine. In addition to being performed on their own, an echocardiogram can be combined with an exercise stress test to evaluate how your heart and arteries respond to physical stress.
One scan, many uses
Echocardiograms can be used to diagnose many cardiovascular problems and to manage them, too. For instance, if you have an unusual heart rhythm (like a fluttering or fast heartbeat) or you find yourself short of breath regularly, an echocardiogram can be useful in determining if those symptoms are related to a heart problem.
Our team also might recommend an echocardiogram to:
- Check the size of your heart
- Check the thickness of the heart walls
- Evaluate how well your heart valves are working
- Assess your coronary arteries and look for blockages
- Try to determine the cause of chest or heart pain
- Evaluate the strength of the heart muscle tissue
- Check your heart after a heart attack, heart infection, or stroke
- Diagnose or monitor congenital heart defects
- Track the effectiveness of a current treatment
- Monitor the progress of an existing disease
- Set safe exercise and therapy goals
In general, most issues that affect the heart’s structure or function can be assessed with an echocardiogram, either on its own or along with a stress test.
Don’t ignore heart symptoms
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men in the United States. Having symptoms evaluated right away allows our team to begin any needed treatment early, so you can reduce the risk of serious complications and enjoy a healthier life.
To learn more about echocardiograms and other cardiac testing we offer at our practice in Port St. Lucie, Florida, call or book an appointment online today.