PROCEDURES


Echocardiography (transthoracic and trans-oesophageal)

Overview

Echocardiography is a test to assess blood flow through the heart. By carrying out this test, a cardiologist can determine how well the heart functions by measuring the periods of pump activity and the amount of blood being pumped.

Why it’s performed

Echocardiography is essential in diagnosing valvular disease or the cause of shortness of breath, chest pain and angina—a foetal echocardiography checks for congenital abnormalities affecting the heart.

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Preparation

There are two types of echocardiography: transthoracic echocardiography and trans-oesophageal echocardiography. Preparation for these two procedures varies. There are no specific preoperative instructions to follow concerning a transthoracic echocardiogram. Usually, patients eat, drink and take medicine as they usually would.

Preparation for trans-oesophageal echocardiography is much stricter. For example, the patient will not be allowed to eat several hours before the procedure. Also, after the minor procedure, the patient must arrange a lift home because they will be too exhausted to drive.

Procedure

A technician, also called a sonographer, uses a transducer with gel and applies it to the chest over the heart. This piece of equipment is used to record echoes (sound waves) emitted from the heart. Next, a computer is used to convert the high-frequency sound waves to mobile images that can be seen on a monitor.

Preparation for trans-oesophageal echocardiography is different. First, the throat is numbed using an anaesthetic. Then, a transducer is carefully inserted into the throat and oesophagus. Similar to transthoracic echocardiography, trans-oesophageal echocardiography captures these sound waves and converts them into images on a monitor.

Recovery

Because this is a minor procedure, usual routine activities can resume after echocardiography. Should the results from the test turn out to have a positive outcome with no unusual activity present, there will be no need to pursue further testing. However, if the results are inconclusive or problematic, a specialist cardiologist may order further tests.


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FAQ

 

1Is an echocardiogram invasive?
No, an echocardiogram is a non-invasive, minor procedure. There are no risks involved with this procedure. However, you may feel slight discomfort when the transducer is placed over your skin due to pressure applied in the area.
2What are the side effects of trans-oesophageal echocardiography?
Some patients may develop a minor reaction to the sedative. Also, due to the use of the anaesthetic, you may experience a sore throat afterwards.
3Can you drink anything before an echocardiogram?
Yes, usually you can. However, you are only allowed to drink water at least four hours before the echocardiogram. By drinking soda or caffeine just before the test, you can interfere with the echocardiogram findings.

“FIRST, DO NO HARM.”