Echocardiography & Echocardiograms: Ultrasounds to Image the Heart
Echocardiograms Reveal Extent of Damage
Echocardiograms (“echoes”) are ultrasound tests that use sound waves to take a moving picture of the heart. An echocardiogram can reveal the size and shape of the heart, pumping strength, and the location and extent of damage to heart tissues. The Echocardiography Laboratory at Froedtert & the Medial College of Wisconsin performs thousands of echo procedures a year and is accredited by the Intersocietal Commission for the Accreditation of Echocardiography Laboratories.
Echocardiogram tests performed in the lab include:
Transthoracic Echocardiogram (TTE)
In this common procedure, an ultrasound transducer, which emits sound waves, is placed on the chest in the area of the heart. The transducer picks up the echoes of sound waves and transmits them as electrical impulses to a machine that converts the impulses into images of the heart.
Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE)
This is a test that involves placing a thin tube with an ultrasound probe on the end into the esophagus. The technique places the ultrasound probe closer to the heart and provides greater detail. Since 2007, the Heart and Vascular Center has also tested 3-dimensional TEE to diagnose heart problems.
Intracardiac Echocardiogram (ICE)
This test is conducted during heart catheterization and electrophysiology procedures. It provides unique ultrasound images from inside the heart muscle.
Echocardiogram Stress Tests (Stress Echo)
Stress echoes help determine how the heart functions under stress. The test can show if the blood supply is reduced in the arteries that supply the heart. Stress tests may be done on a treadmill, a supine bicycle (the patient pedals while lying in bed), or with the use of a medication that stimulates the heart to pump faster, simulating exercise.
This technique provides a three-dimensional (3-D) echo picture of a beating heart. The Echo Lab at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin has the longest clinical experience in the state using real-time, 3-D echocardiography.
Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy (CRT) Evaluation
This procedure uses echocardiography to measure the level of asynchrony (lack of synchronization) in the heart and determine a patient’s eligibility for a specialized pacemaker to correct the problem.
This procedure allows physicians to identify the performance of each segment of the heart separately, which would give physicians a much more accurate indication of heart damage caused by cancer therapy or other substances.