Echocardiograms rely on sound waves to capture high speed, 3-D images of the moving heart. This noninvasive test is the starting point for anyone with a heart condition because it shows the heart’s shape, size, and how it beats.
“We can see if the heart is enlarged, if it is pumping normally, relaxing poorly, how the valves move, and if there is fluid build up,” explains Eric J. Velazquez, MD, director of cardiovascular imaging at Duke. He says echocardiography is a critical technology because it can be applied in any situation: the exam room, hospital room and operating room.
During surgery, for example, transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) provides continuous monitoring of the heart. It’s used during all heart surgeries at Duke because “it helps your surgeon make moment-by-moment decisions before surgery is completed,” Velazquez explains.
Echocardiograms are a crucial first step in the diagnostic process. However, this procedure can’t tell if tissue is abnormal. And it doesn’t provide information about the arteries or how blood flows. Additional imaging can pinpoint why your heart isn’t functioning, as it should.