An echocardiographic study is an ultrasound of the heart, most commonly referred to as a cardiac ultrasound or echocardiogram (echo).
During this procedure, high frequency sound waves are used to form a moving, two-dimensional picture of your child's heart on a television screen. This enables us to:
- Identify any abnormalities in the structure of your child's heart
- Evaluate how the heart muscle is functioning
- Measure the speed of blood flow through the heart
- Estimate blood pressure in the different chambers of the heart
The most common echocardiogram is called a transthoracic echocardiogram. It is performed non-invasively. During this exam, a small instrument called a transducer is moved to different areas on your child's abdomen and chest. Images and measurements are taken of your child's heart from different angles during the test.
In order to take the best images possible, it is very important that your child remain still and quiet during the exam. If your child is restless during the exam, it may need to be repeated with medication to help your child relax.
Another type of echocardiogram that your doctor may order is called a transesophageal echocardiography, which uses an invasive technique. During this exam, your child will be sedated and a very small transducer will be inserted into the esophagus and used to take images of the heart.
Echocardiography studies can be performed on children of any age and size. Echocardiograms can examine the heart of unborn babies suspected of having congenital heart disease. This study is called fetal echocardiography.