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Overview of Cardiac Ultrasound (Echocardiogram) from a Cardiologist in Phoenix

Cardiac Ultrasound (Echocardiogram)

An echocardiogram (often referred to as an “echo”) is an ultrasound test of the heart. This diagnostic tool uses high-pitched sound waves sent through a transducer device that picks up echoes of sound waves. The echocardiogram turns these echoes into moving pictures so the doctor can view them on a TV monitor or video screen.

Types of Echocardiograms

Transthoracic Echocardiogram (TTE) – This is the most common type of cardiac ultrasound. This device views the heart by way of a transducer moved across different areas of the chest and abdomen.

Stress Echocardiogram (Stress Echo) – During a stress echo, the ultrasound is done before and after your heart is put under stress, either from exercise or by an injection of medication that causes your heart to beat faster and harder. Stress cardiac ultrasounds allow the doctor to see if you have decreased blood flow.

Doppler Echocardiogram (Doppler Echo) – With the Doppler ultrasound, the doctor can see how exactly the blood flows through the valves, chambers, and blood vessels. A transducer detects movement of the blood by way of sound waves. A computer measures the speed of blood flow, as well as the direction of flow through the blood vessels and chambers.

Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE) – With this test, the doctor passes a probe down your esophagus to see pictures of your heart. This method allows a closer view of the heart because it bypasses the lungs, ribs, sternum, and muscles that could block the sound wave transmission. You will be given and sedative and an anesthetic agent prior to having a TEE.


Type of Test Why it is Done 
Transthoracic Echo Measure size and shape of heart chambersDetect heart muscle diseases

Detect pumping ability (ejection fraction)

Look for blood clots

Evaluate abnormal heart sounds (murmurs or clicks

Stress Echo Identify causes of reduced blood flowMonitor for ischemia

Evaluate how the heart responds to stress


Doppler Echo Measure the speed of blood flowMonitor blood pressure in heart valves


Transesophageal Echo Monitor the heart during surgeryGuide the doctor during a heart cath

Look for masses or blood clots

Check on valve function

Identify abnormal blood flow between chambers



Preparation for Echocardiogram Testing

Before you have a cardiac ultrasound, the doctor and his staff will discuss the diagnostic procedure with you. You will need to sign consent forms and HIPPA paperwork. Be sure to tell the healthcare professionals about any problems you may have. Also, discuss your current medications and ask whether or not you should take them on the day of your test. The Doppler and the transthoracic echoes do not require any special preparation. However, the stress and transesophageal echoes do.


Type of Test Special Preparation 
Transthoracic Echo None 
Stress Echo Do not heat for a few hours before the testWear comfortable, flat shoes

Wear lightweight and loose clothing

Ask the doctor about medications


Doppler Echo None 
Transesophageal Echo Do not eat or drink for 6 hours before testRemove dentures and dental prostheses

Bring someone to drive you home



New I-Space Technology for Viewing inside the Heart

Researchers at the Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam have found a way to use virtual reality to see the heart in three dimensions. This new technology could help diagnose heart conditions in the future. The pilot study, published in the 2005 issue of Cardiovascular Ultrasound, revealed that doctors can use three-dimensional animated images (called holograms) to visualize the heart more effectively. These holograms permit the healthcare professionals to see the interior parts of the heart, not just external structures.

According to cardiology researchers van den Bosch and associates, the doctors used a special pair of glasses that have polarizing lenses to detect heart defects and malfunction of the organ. This I-Space technology is only available to a few select research centers in the world at present. However, the investigators predict that this potential application could be utilized by cardiologists in the future.

How it Feels

With both the transthoracic and Doppler echoes, you should not experience any pain. The technician will put a gel on your chest that may feel a bit cool before putting the handheld transducer against your chest. You may feel some discomfort both from lying flat and from the pressure of the transducer. If so, ask the technician for a break. If you have trouble breathing when lying flat, be sure to discuss this with your Mesa Cardiologist.

With the stress echo, you will be given an intravenous (IV) medication. Expect to feel a brief, sharp pain when the needle is inserted into your arm. The medication most commonly used is called dobutamine, and side effects to it include dizziness, headache, chest pain, and flushing. If you experience any of these known side effects, tell the doctor immediately.

During transesophageal echo testing, expect the same brief, sharp pain from the IV needle as with the stress echo. The Phoenix cardiologist will spray an anesthetic into your throat to numb it. You may experience a bitter taste and a sensation of fullness in your throat. Try to relax and take long, slow breaths during the procedure. Common discomforts of this test include gagging, nausea, bloating, and abdominal cramping. Just tap on the arm of the doctor when your discomfort becomes severe. You will be given a sedative, and it will make you drowsy. Other side effects include dry mouth, blurred vision, and difficulty speaking.

Dr. Yasir Batres of AZ Heart Doctor is the Valley’s leading cardiologist. He is Double Board Certified, highly skilled, and is a cardiologist Phoenix AZ trusts and respects. Most insurance is accepted, call (480) 300-4646 today!

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