There are several methods to assess the function of your heart like Echocardiogram and exercise stress test. These methods use different modalities to evaluate the functioning of the heart in different conditions. Echocardiogram, also known as an echo for short is used to visualize the chambers in your heart and also assess the blood flow through them.
Trans Thoracic Echocardiography: the sonographer will apply the gel to your chest after which a probe is placed on your chest. This probe produces ultrasonic sound waves which help in visualization of the chambers of the heart, when used in the Doppler mode this probe can also show the direction of blood flow in the heart.
Trans Esophageal Echocardiography: an ultrasound producing probe is introduced into your food pipe via a tube in your mouth. Using the probe in the esophagus provides better visualization of the valves. When used in the Doppler mode the pressure and direction of flow of blood can be calculated.
Stress Echocardiography: to assess the function of your heart transthoracic echocardiography is done before and after a round of moderate exercise.
Trans Thoracic Echocardiogram: It is usually done as an outpatient in the office or hospital. It takes about an hour and there is no preparation required for this test. You can take all your regular medicines before this test. You can drive home yourself after the test.
Trans Esophageal Echocardiogram: It is usually done in the hospital. The procedure takes about an hour but the recovery time can take up to few hours before you are able to leave the hospital. You will have to be an empty stomach for at least 4-6 hours before the test. Your doctor will decide if any medications need to be stopped or not. You will need a driver to take you home after the test is done.
Your doctor may order for an echo after you experience chest pain, leg swelling, palpitations, dizziness or shortness of breath to check for the functioning of the valves of the heart and the chambers.
After assessing the results of the echocardiogram, your doctor will be able to comment on: