Echocardiography is a test that utilizes sound waves to examine your heart muscle. This painless procedure allows your doctor to view your heart in motion to determine its size and shape. The chambers, valves, and surrounding pericardium are also visible.
Your doctor may want you to have echocardiography, or an echo test, for many reasons. Read on to learn these three conditions that echocardiography may reveal.
1. Valvular Heart Disease
Certain symptoms like irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness, and swollen ankles or feet can indicate valvular heart disease. Your doctor may use echocardiography to verify whether you have other signs of this type of heart disease characterized by damaged heart valves.
Echocardiography looks closely at all four heart valves to see which may not function the right way. Blood cannot flow properly through valves that are narrowed, leak, or do not close properly. The test also produces a live image of your beating heart and gives your doctor a crucial glimpse of working valves and blood flow.
2. Heart Defects
Some congenital heart defects are immediately apparent soon after you are born. However, other heart defects are not diagnosed until much later. While not immediately dangerous, other heart defects manifest in certain ways and make you feel tired, short of breath during exercise, and cause your hands and feet to swell.
Common defects that are not life-threatening may center on the wall separating heart chambers. A ventricular septal defect is a hole between both lower chambers, or ventricles. Blood mixes between both ventricles rather than continuing to the rest of the body. When both your heart and lungs work harder, fluid can build up in the lungs.
A gap present between the two upper chambers, or ventricles, is an atrial septal defect. Fortunately, echocardiography allows your doctor to check for physical defects present in the walls of all four heart chambers, as well as the valves, septum, and pericardium.
3. Coronary Heart Disease
Your doctor might request echocardiography if he or she suspects coronary artery disease, a condition where the arteries of the heart are unable to supply blood to the heart. Plaque buildup, disease, and injuries can affect the way arteries deliver blood.
A traditional echocardiography does not show blockages in the arteries, but another type of test will. A stress echocardiogram or stress test captures images of your heart before and after you walk on a treadmill. Your doctor will be able to see whether there's a lack of blood supply via arteries that lead to the heart.
For more information, contact a local echocardiography center, such as Alpert Zales & Castro Pediatric Cardiology, near you to learn more.