Transthoracic Echocardiography Imaging
Transthoracic echocardiography imaging is a procedure used to check for problems with your heart. It will also show any problems in the blood vessels near your heart.
Sound waves are sent through a handheld device placed on your chest, and those waves show the structure and function of your heart through pictures on a monitor.
Transthoracic Echocardiography is the most common type of echocardiography
A transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE) is the most common type of echocardiogram, which is a still or moving image of the internal parts of the heart using ultrasound.
In this case, the probe (or ultrasonic transducer) is placed on the chest or abdomen of the subject to get various views of the heart. It is used as a non-invasive assessment of the overall health of the heart, including a patient’s heart valves and degree of heart muscle contraction (an indicator of the ejection fraction).
The images are displayed on a monitor for real-time viewing and then recorded.
How Does Transthoracic Echocardiography work?
Ultrasound is done through the chest. We use it to look at the function and structures of the heart, and it’s a painless, non-invasive way of looking at the heart. In this standard type of echocardiogram, a technician (sonographer) spreads gel on a transducer and presses the transducer firmly against your skin, aiming an ultrasound beam through your chest to your heart.
When Do I Need a Transthoracic Echocardiography?
If you have a personal history or family history of diabetes, hypertension, prolonged infection, including dental infection, congestive heart failure, open-heart surgery, cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart or thickened heart muscle), or if you were an IV drug user, you need this procedure. A cardiac echo is used to identify abnormalities in the heart’s structure and function. Sound waves are emitted during the test, which bounces off your heart and creates a moving image of it on a screen. This allows your doctor to look at the anatomy of your heart from many different angles and to watch your heart rhythm.
If you have symptoms of fatigue, shortness of breath, or fainting, you may need a cardiac echo, especially if your heart sounds or an electrocardiogram (EKG), a test that charts the electrical activity of your heart, suggest that you have a structural heart problem.
What does an Echocardiogram detect?
A cardiac echo allows your doctor to watch your heart as it beats so that specific areas of concern can be identified. For example:
- Problems with the heart valves such as mitral valve prolapse can be detected because the test can visualize the movement of your heart valves.
- A special microphone called a Doppler can be used during the test to measure the velocity (speed) of blood flow in various areas within the heart. This is helpful in measuring impaired blood flow in conditions such as aortic stenosis.
- An echo is also helpful in evaluating congenital heart disease. For example, tetralogy of Fallot and atrial septal defect are congenital conditions in which the heart does not develop the proper anatomical structure.
- An echo is often used to measure the left ventricular ejection fraction to evaluate the effectiveness of various cardiac treatments in conditions such as heart failure.
- If you have a cardiac arrhythmia, which is an irregular rhythm, an echo can assess your heart movement, which may help in determining the exact cause and best treatment.
What are the limitations of the procedure?
While the echocardiogram provides a lot of information about cardiac anatomy, it does not visualize the coronary arteries or blockages in your coronary arteries.
If imaging the coronary arteries is necessary, a cardiac catheterization is commonly performed. Certain physical variations, such as a thick chest wall or emphysema, can interfere with the visualization of your heart during an echocardiogram. If you have one of these conditions and need an echo, you might need an invasive ultrasound of your heart known as a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE).