Find yourself wondering: What is an echocardiogram?
An echocardiogram is a test done that observes the movements of the heart. Similar to sonograms that pregnant women get on their stomach, echocardiograms can give a visual video on a computer screen of your heart’s activity. There are multiple kinds of echocardiograms that can be ordered, depending on the personal circumstances of the patient. For example, a female heartbeat exam for her unborn child would require fetal echocardiography.
The level of echocardiogram reliability is one of the highest among all other tests that have to do with the heart. In addition to the high level of echocardiogram reliability, the procedure for the test is quick and painless. These benefits make it one of the most used tests when the doctor wants to see exactly what is going on with the patient’s heart.
Echocardiogram vs EKG or ECG vs Echocardiogram
Many people wonder what are the differences in echocardiogram vs EKG or ECG vs echocardiogram. The first thing to note is that EKG and ECG are abbreviations of the exact same word. They both stand for electrocardiography. This is a similar test to the echocardiogram, however, the EKG is limited to just showing the beat of the heart on paper. Unlike the echocardiogram, the EKG does not show the actual heart.
How Much Does the Echocardiogram Cost?
The echocardiogram cost does vary, depending on the company performing the test and the insurance paying for the test. If someone were to pay out of pocket for the test, they would be looking at anywhere between $1 thousand to $5 thousand. Fortunately, the heart ultrasound cost is covered by most insurances. In most cases, as long as there is a referring doctor, the heart ultrasound cost will be no more than a copay for the patient.
Why Does My Doctor Want Me To Do An Echocardiogram?
If you are experiencing symptoms such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Previous heart attacks
- Fainting spells
Your doctor may want you to have this test. The heart has the ultimate job of providing the body with oxygen to function. When we do not get enough oxygen pumped through our bodies, we begin to experience these symptoms. Also, in some cases, the doctor wants to check for any possible growths or clogs within the heart. Early diagnosis of these conditions can greatly increase the likelihood of healing.
What is AFib?
AFib is an abbreviation for atrial fibrillation. This is a disease that the echocardiogram can detect. This disease results in blot clots, which can cause strokes. If the echocardiogram shows AFib, then the patient is usually given blood thinners.
How Are Echocardiograms Accurate?
How are echocardiograms accurate, if they can only show the shape of the heart? They are accurate because they also show the movements that the heart makes. This test can show the blood flow, the rhythm of the heartbeat, and multiple layers into the heart. These tests have a high accuracy rate with revealing whether the heart is healthy or not.
What are the Different Kinds of Echocardiograms?
This is the most common type of echocardiogram done. In this process, a patient lies back on a hospital bed. The technician applies a serum to the chest area and presses a transducer to against the chest. The transducer sends sound waves to the heart and the waves echo back off the heart forming a live video on the computer screen of your heart in motion.
This kind of echocardiogram is done if the regular transthoracic test does not show enough detail. The patient’s throat is given medication to numb the throat. Then, a transducer is attached to the end of a flexible tube. The tube is then carefully guided down the esophagus just behind the heart area. These tests have a better view to see the aorta.
Some diseases, like coronary heart disease, are better diagnosed when the heart is beating fast during the echocardiogram. To get the heart rate up, the patient does a brisk walk on the treadmill during the test. For patients who can not exercise, medicine is given that will manually speed up the heartbeat.
This test is similar to the transthoracic, accept this test gives three-dimensional, more clearly detailed images of the heart. Many times, this test is ordered for children is they are having problems. Occasionally the three-dimensional echocardiograms are done during the transthoracic echocardiograms.
If the doctor wants to know the condition of an unborn baby’s heart, the fetal echocardiography will be ordered. This test is done by placing the transducer on the mother’s stomach. If the fetal echocardiography is done during the pregnancy, it generally happens between 18 and 22 weeks.
How to Prepare for an Echocardiogram
Because echocardiograms are non-invasive and painless, there is little to no preparation needed for the test. The only preparation required would be for the transthoracic echocardiogram. The doctor may request that you do not eat or drink for eight hours before the exam. For the stress test, it would be best to come in some comfortable shoes. This is so that you are ready for any kind of exercise to get your heart speed up. Other than that, you are free to continue taking whatever medication you take and to sleep as you normally would.
After the Echocardiogram
After the echocardiogram, you are free to walk and drive home. This test usually takes about an hour. Some test facilities want to keep their transthoracic echocardiogram cost down to a minimum. To keep the transthoracic echocardiogram cost down, they do the tests in half an hour.
What do the Results Tell Me?
The results of a female heartbeat exam, like the echocardiogram, will show if there are any problems with the heart valves. The test will show if there is any kind of clot or excess fluid. The walls of the heart are also examined to determine if the density is correct. There are numerous details an echocardiogram can reveal and your doctor will happily reveal what they find.