Echocardiogram: A quick, efficient and potentially lifesaving diagnostic test

Friday, February 15, 2019

What’s an echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram, or "echo", is a scan which looks at the heart and the blood vessels surrounding it. By using ultrasound technology, small probes send high-frequency sound waves to create echoes that bounce off different parts of the body to produce images of the heart.

“Echocardiography is pivotal in the diagnosis and management of the shocked patient. Important characteristics in the setting of shock, are that it is non-invasive and can be rapidly applied. In an acute situation, a basic study often yields immediate results, allowing for the initiation of therapy, while a follow-up advanced study brings the advantage of further refining the diagnosis and providing an in-depth hemodynamic assessment. Competency in basic critical care echocardiography is now regarded as a mandatory part of critical care training with clear guidelines available.”
Echocardiography in shock management Critical Care

Did you know, an echocardiogram…

  • Is non-invasive
  • Has no side effects
  • Involves no exposure to radiation
  • Costs 5 times less than a cardiac magnetic resonance
  • Takes less than 30 minutes to complete

Did you know there are various types of echocardiograms?

  • A transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE) is the most common. By using ultrasound technology an echocardiographer takes still or moving images of the heart via various probes placed on the chest and abdomen, allowing for various pictures to be taken of the heart
  • During a transoesophageal echocardiogram (TOE) an ultrasound tube will be passed into your oesophagus. This will significantly reduce the amount of ultrasound artifacts caused by any structures located between the probe and the heart itself (i.e. bones, lungs, fat tissue, etc.) and therefore allow a better image quality and increase the diagnostic potential of the study
  • Contrast echocardiograms use a harmless contrast agent which is injected into your bloodstream. During an echocardiogram, this substance shows up clearer on a scan and helps produce a better image of your heart

The type of echocardiogram you will have depends on the heart condition being assessed and how detailed the images need to be.

‘’Echocardiography plays a vital role in the assessment of patients with cardiovascular conditions such as acute myocardial infarction, ischemic heart disease, aortic dissection, pulmonary embolus, suspected infective endocarditis or just monitoring of any valvular disease. It also helps respiratory and general physicians in the diagnosis and follow-up of other primarily non-cardiac illnesses.’’
British Medical Journal

ICS Diagnostics are the UK's first specialist remote reporting team of British and European accredited echocardiographers. We adhere to BSE guidelines and can offer the technology and support to go beyond BSE recommendations. Click here to learn more about our unique services.

Joao Azevedo
Regional Echocardiography Lead, ICS Diagnostics

Echocardiography in shock management Critical Care 201620:275 Anthony S McLean

Echocardiography and the general physician GJ Heatlie,1, M Giles 2 BMJ Journal NHS

Journal of American Society of Echocardiography J Am Soc Echocardiographer. 2003 Oct; 16(10):1015-8