Eisenhower Army Medical Center
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Echocardiography

Echocardiography is a procedure that uses ultrasound waves to examine the heart. It is a safe and painless procedure that helps diagnose a variety of problems. It allows detail examination of the pump function of your heart as well as chamber size and valves within the heart. Leaking or restriction of heart valve motion can be diagnosed. In the majority of patients the study can be performed from the chest wall using some jelly like lubricant and a hand held transducer. The transducer sends ultrasound waves that bounce off the various parts of the heart. A computer uses the information coming from the heart and an image is displayed on a television screen which can be recorded on videotape or printed on paper.

Some times it is necessary to use a transesophageal echo probe (TEE). This is done from the inside of the esophagous (tube leading from the mouth to the stomach). Because the esophagous lies behind the heart , the TEE provides much clearer images of the heart than a standard echocardiogram which is performed outside the chest. These pictures are also displayed on a television screen and can be recorded on videotape. TEE is done for many reasons to include the following: to detect blood clots or masses in the heart, to assess the severity of some valve defects, to examine prosthetic (artificial) heart valves, to evaluate holes between heart chambers, to detect infection of heart valves, to diagnose a dissection (tear) in the lining of the aorta (the body's main artery).

During the test you will be asked to lie on your left side and your throat is sprayed with an anesthetic to numb it. A low dose of sedative is given through the IV line in your arm to help you relax. The doctor gently inserts the probe into your mouth. As you swallow the tube is slowly directed into the esophagous. Pictures are obtained and recorded from both the esophagous and stomach. After the procedure you recover in an observed area as the sedative wears off. You are then able to leave with an escort to drive you home.