Echocardiogram

Echocardiogram (echo) is an imaging technique performed for suspected problems with the valves or chambers of the heart. It quickly and safely determines whether the cause of some common complaints like shortness of breath is heart-related.

A Sonographer or Cardiologist uses a device known as a “transducer” over the chest, to record pictures of the heart through ultrasound waves. This process is entirely painless and non-invasive and does not require X-rays which could be harmful.

Echocardiogram Westmead | Dr Moazzeni

Why would one need an echocardiogram?

  • Suppose there is an abnormal cardiac (form heart) sound during the physical exam, like a cardiac murmur. In that case, an echocardiogram will show the cause. 
  • Looking for the cause of an enlarged heart, unexplained chest pain or pressure, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeats or swollen legs. 
  • High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) to check the effects of hypertension on the heart muscle, like diastolic heart failure.
  • Checking the heart valves (native or artificial) and their function. An echocardiogram is the perfect test to check for valvular stenosis (incomplete opening of the valve) or Regurgitation (leaking of the valve due to the valve not closing tightly).
  • Measure the size and shape of the heart’s chambers.
  • Check the ability of your heart chambers to pump blood (cardiac function). An echocardiogram can show how much blood your heart pumps during each heartbeat (ejection fraction). Ejection fraction is usually low in heart failure.
  • Detecting diseases that affect the heart muscle and its function, such as Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.
  • Looking for blood clots and tumours inside the heart. This is especially important if someone has suffered a stroke or TIA (mini-stroke).
  • Checking for congenital heart defects or the effectiveness of previous cardiac surgery.
  • Check to see how your heart has been affected by a heart attack.
  • Identify the cause of heart failure.
  • Looking for a collection of fluid around the heart (pericardial effusion ).
  • Looking for a thickening of the lining (pericardium) around the heart.
  • Looking for segmental abnormalities of the heart muscle after a heart attack.
  • Looking for regional wall motion abnormalities during a stress test, called Stress Echocardiogram.

An echocardiogram picture (Loop). We can see all four heart chambers here, including the left and right ventricles and atria.


 

How often do I need to repeat Echocardiogram?

It depends on why the test was done initially and the findings. If the initial echocardiogram was normal, there is no need to repeat it unless there are new complaints.
The two most common diseases that require more frequent Echocardiograms are Heart Failure and Heart Valve Disease. Depending on the severity of the disease, an echocardiogram might need to be repeated more frequently. For example, Aortic Valve Stenosis (AS) should usually be followed every 6-12 months if the stenosis is severe; otherwise, 3-5 years is the rule (for mild or moderate disease). Other valve pathologies usually follow the same rule depending on the severity of the disease. This is a rough guide, and every patient should be assessed on their own merits and their Cardiologist assessment.
 
 The general rule is that: If one doesn’t have any symptoms (complaints) and their physical examination and blood work is completely normal, rarely any testing is required.
Dr Reza Moazzeni MD, FRACP

Dr Reza Moazzeni MD, FRACP

Dr Moazzeni is a Consultant Cardiologist practising at Westmead and St Leonards in Sydney, NSW. He has a special interest in cardiac imaging, including Echocardiogram, Stress Echocardiogram, CT coronary angiogram, coronary artery calcium score, and preventive medicine.

Heartcare Sydney