Echocardiography (sonography of the heart)

What is an echocardiography?

In echocardiography, the heart is examined with ultrasonic waves from outside through the chest wall. This examination method allows the assessment of the size of the heart and the heart and valve function. This shows any thickening of the heart musculature or wall movement disorders which might indicate a heart attack or heart muscle diseases. Heart valve diseases can also be identified by echocardiography, such as if the valves are not closing properly. Pressure measurements in the heart are also possible.
The flow speed of the blood can also be determined by Doppler and colour duplex sonography. The doctor can therefore detect constricted or leaking heart valves and fistulae, and make a comprehensive assessment of the heart and circulation.

When is echocardiography necessary?

If a heart valve is not closing properly, this can result in a backflow of blood. Such a valve insufficiency can be confirmed by means of echocardiography, and its severity estimated. With the aid of echocardiography, the doctor can also assess other diseases of the heart valves such as constrictions (valve stenoses), as well as the function of valve prostheses.
This method can also detect shunts, i.e. fistulae between vessels which would normally be separated.
Echocardiography is also used for the assessment of coronary heart disease or high blood pressure (arterial hypertension), or if the patient suffers from a congenital heart defect or an aortal disease.

Procedure

The patient lies on the left side with the upper body exposed, and can also turn over onto the back during the examination. The doctor passes an ultrasonic transmitter over the patient’s chest, to which he has first applied gel, so that the sound waves can penetrate better.
The examination is carried out at our practice on an out-patient basis.

Duration

Echocardiography takes a few minutes.

Risks

Since the procedure uses harmless sound waves, there is no risk or stress involved for the patient.

Note

No special preparations are necessary for an echocardiographic examination.