What is echocardiography? Echocardiography is a procedure used to assess the heart's structures and function. Echocardiography is also called Echo, Cardiac Ultrasound, Cardiac Doppler, Transthoracic Echocardiography, or TTE.
How does echocardiography work? If your child needs an Echocardiography, a small probe called a transducer is placed on his chest and sends out ultrasonic sound waves at a frequency too high to be heard. When the transducer is placed on child's chest on certain locations and at certain angles, the ultrasonic sound waves move through the skin and other body tissues to the heart tissues, where the waves bounce (or "echo") off the heart structures. The transducer picks up the reflected waves and sends them to a computer. The computer interprets the echoes and creates an image of the heart walls and valves.
What problems can echocardiography diagnose? Several diseases of the heart may be detected by echocardiography, including:
Aneurysm - a dilation of a part of the coronary arteries or the aorta (the large artery which carries oxygenated blood out of the heart to the rest of the body) that may cause a weakness of the tissue at the site of the aneurysm. In extreme cases, the aneurysm may rupture, which is an emergency situation causing rapid blood loss out of the blood vessels. Occasionally, an aneurysm may occur in the pulmonary arteries or surgical patch areas especially if any intervention, such as ballon angioplasty, has been done.
Cardiomyopathy - an enlargement of the heart due to thickening or weakening of the heart muscle
Congenital defects - abnormalities or deficiencies in one or more heart structures that occur during formation of the fetus
Congestive heart failure - a condition in which the heart muscle has become weakened to an extent that blood cannot be pumped efficiently, causing a build up (congestion) in the blood vessels, lungs, feet, ankles and other parts of the body
Pericarditis - an inflammation of the membrane (thin covering) that surrounds the heart
Valve disease - one or more of the heart's four valves becomes defective, or may be congenitally (since birth) malformed
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