A day in the life of an Echocardiographer

Friday, November 9, 2018

My name is Joao and I’m an Echocardiographer.

What is that?

It’s a healthcare professional who has been specifically trained to perform heart scans (called echocardiograms or most commonly known as "echos"). My role is essentially to undertake this diagnostic test, which can be requested by a cardiologist or any doctor who suspects or wants to rule out a heart condition. Find out more about heart conditions, here.

Outpatient clinics - Transthoracic Echocardiograms

On any given day, I perform several Transthoracic Echocardiograms (TTEs), which are the most routine echo performed in outpatients. This takes around 30 to 40 minutes to complete. To do these, I communicate directly with my patients to ensure that they are fully aware of what to expect and they are put at ease before I take images of their hearts. I give them privacy to get ready and obtain their consent to take the scan. Our patient information leaflet, can be found here.

These scans are done using an ultrasound machine which allows me to take moving pictures of the heart (loops). At the end of each scan (which includes several images of a patient’s heart), I will review, thoroughly analyse each image and ultimately write a report which is later sent to the doctor that requested the scan.

Echocardiograms in emergency and theatre-based settings

On some days, I scan patients during an emergency. Here, I may be able to detect potential life-threatening conditions that require urgent treatment.

Echocardiography is also used during invasive procedures such as implantation of prosthetic heart valves. In these situations, the echocardiographer has a crucial role by assisting the doctors on the positioning and deployment of the valves, as well as ruling out some of the complications that may occur during the procedure.

Echocardiograms in critical care units

In the critical care units, echo is also an indispensable tool to assess changes on the patient’s current condition and cardiac output state, particularly if the patients are already depending on life support machines, such as ECMO (Extra-Corporeal Membrane of Oxygen) or IABP (Intra-aortic Balloon Pump).

Why I love what I do

Personally, I feel that to be able to directly see someone’s heart beating in front of you is an incredible sensation. Overall to be an echocardiographer and help people whilst doing this, is rewarding.

I am passionate about my work and I believe that it makes a big difference. My words may be ‘slightly’ biased, however, I’ll leave you with this:

Have you ever seen a baby scan? How nice was it? I'm sure you came out with a huge smile. Now imagine being able to see a heart, your own heart. Or perhaps, your baby's heart.

Joao Azevedo
Regional Echocardiography Lead
ICS Diagnostics