What is an echocardiogram?
An echocardiogram, or echo for short, is a noninvasive, safe and painless way to examine the heart and surrounding structures. Through the use of harmless sound waves, images are obtained and visualized on a computer screen.
There are three components to an echo:
- 2-Dimensional: This component allows the physician to visualize the heart as a two-dimensional, moving structure. All of the chambers, valves and arteries can be analyzed.
- Doppler: Doppler is used to see the direction of blood flow through the heart, as well as analyze velocities.
- M-mode: M-mode transfers 2-D images into graph form, allowing measurements to be made.
What can my doctor learn from the echo?
A great deal of information can be obtained from an echo, such as cardiac anatomy, or how the heart developed.
- Abnormal or irregular structures that may cause a murmur.
- How effectively the heart is pumping.
- Chamber size and wall thickness.
- The size and function of the heart valves.
- Identification of defects in the walls (septum) of the heart.
How will the test be performed?
While the child lies down, a transducer (microphone) with clear gel on the end is moved over the chest and stomach to obtain the ultrasound images. This is completely painless, though the child may feel pressure from the transducer on the chest and stomach. The entire test will take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
How can I make my child more comfortable?
Your child can bring a video to watch while the test is being performed, or chose one from our collection. For infants and young children, a parent may lie down next to the child, hold his or her hand or even feed the child during the test. The best images are obtained when the child is lying still and is quiet. On occasion, an uncooperative child will require mild sedation. In that event the child will need an empty stomach (four hours) prior to the test and will need to be observed afterward until awake.
How will I receive the test results?
A cardiovascular technologist will perform the echo. Within 24 hours, a pediatric cardiologist will interpret the test. The results will then be sent to your pediatrician who will then discuss the results with you.