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.
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.
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.
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.