What an Echocardiogram Can Reveal About Your Heart Health

Nov 02, 2023
What an Echocardiogram Can Reveal About Your Heart Health
X-rays are great for detecting broken bones, but when you need to check out your ticker, you need an echocardiogram. Here’s what this essential diagnostic tool tells us about your heart health.

You never want to take chances with your heart — emotionally or physically. 

While we’re not in the business of relationship advice, we can help you keep your heart in top condition. When your heart needs a check-up, Dr. Asif Aziz and our team at Prestige Primary Care in Dallas, Texas, provide onsite laboratory services, including echocardiograms, to get an inside look at how your heart is functioning. 

In this blog, Dr. Aziz explains the ins and outs of this essential diagnostic tool and what it reveals about your heart health. 

Unpacking the power of echocardiograms

An echocardiogram (or "echo") is a sonogram of your heart. It uses sound waves to create a moving picture of your heart and give us a sneak peek into how your heart is doing its job.

There are three kinds of echoes:

1. Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE)

This exam is like a regular ultrasound, checking your heart through your chest wall.

2. Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE)

We look closer at your heart by putting the ultrasound probe down your throat. It’s a little uncomfortable but not painful.

3. Stress echocardiogram

We do this when you're working up a sweat or under a bit of stress. It shows us how your heart behaves when it's put to work.

How we do an echocardiogram

The echo procedure is pretty straightforward. You lie down, and we put some gel on your chest that helps our ultrasound instrument (the transducer) do its job. Then, Dr. Aziz moves it around your chest to take pictures of your heart from different angles. It only takes about 45 minutes.

What can an echo find?

An echo is like a detective for heart issues. It can spot problems like heart disease, valve issues, heart muscle abnormalities, and even fluid build-up around your heart. It's a powerful tool in our diagnostic arsenal that lets us catch potential heart problems before they escalate.

An echocardiogram lets us see:

  • The shape and size of your heart
  • How the valves are functioning
  • Leaks
  • Damage
  • Narrowing
  • Tumors
  • Heart movement during beats
  • Heart wall thickness

These important data help us detect various heart health problems, such as:

Valvular heart disease

Your heart has four valves that control the blood flow in and out of the organ. Sometimes, these valves may not open or close properly due to damage or disease, disrupting blood flow. This is known as valvular heart disease.

There are two main types of valvular disease:

1. Valvular stenosis

This is when the valves become stiff or fused, restricting the blood flow and making your heart work extra hard to pump blood through these narrow openings.

2. Valvular insufficiency (or regurgitation)

This is when the valves don't close fully, allowing the blood to leak backward, which puts additional strain on your heart as it compensates for the backflow.

An echo can spot these irregularities in your heart valves, enabling us to diagnose valvular heart disease early.

Heart muscle abnormalities

The echo also detects abnormalities in your heart muscle (cardiomyopathies), such as when the heart becomes enlarged, thick, or rigid. In rare cases, scar tissue replaces the muscle tissue.

As the condition worsens, your heart weakens and can’t pump blood efficiently, leading to heart failure or irregular heartbeats. An echo spots changes in your heart muscle, so we can address them early.

Fluid build-up

Another critical issue an echo can find is pericardial effusion, or fluid build-up around your heart. 

A double-layered sac called the pericardium surrounds your heart, and sometimes, excess fluid can accumulate in the space between these layers, putting pressure on the heart and affecting its function.

An echo lets us visualize fluid build-up, helping us to diagnose the condition and develop the most effective treatment plan.

Other conditions an echocardiogram identifies

An echo can also help detect other conditions, such as congenital heart disease (heart problems present at birth), blood clots or tumors, and heart attack damage.

Do you need an echocardiogram?

Not everyone needs an echocardiogram, but here are some signs you shouldn’t ignore:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath or rapid breathing
  • Dizziness, fainting, or frequent fatigue
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat

If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, please don't wait. Call us right away.

Your heart's health is our priority at Prestige Primary Care. So, always stay informed, and never hesitate to reach out. Call or click to schedule an appointment