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Echocardiogram Explained
Echocardiogram Explained
February 02/2023

Echocardiogram Explained

With so many medical procedures available and as much medical jargon to go with it, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by question marks in your head. Let’s take it one at a time. In this brief article brought to you by Southern Maryland Medical Group, we will dive into the basics of an echocardiogram. We will start off with a quick description of the procedure, then review some cases where an echocardiogram is helpful. Finally, we will briefly summarize what you can expect during an echocardiogram treatment appointment.

What Is an Echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram is a type of medical imaging. Specifically, an echocardiogram uses ultrasound, or high frequency sound waves, from a transducer to generate an image or reflection of an individual’s heart. This diagnostic technique offers a wealth of information, including the size and shape of the heart, its pumping capacity, location and extent of any tissue damage, and more. Other names for an echocardiogram include a "heart ultrasound" or "heart sonogram."

TIP: Breaking down the word into its three Greek roots can help you better remember what it means: Echo, cardio, and gram. Echo means sound, cardio means heart, and gram stands for something written or drawn.

There are four main types of echocardiograms:

  • A transthoracic echocardiogram, or TTE, is a standard echocardiogram. It is a non-invasive procedure in which the transducer is placed on the surface of the patient’s chest.
  • A transesophageal echocardiogram, or TEE, offers a more detailed look at the heart. This is performed by inserting the probe, or transducer, down the esophagus.
  • A fetal echocardiogram is performed during pregnancy to check the baby’s heart. This is also a non-invasive procedure done by moving the ultrasound wand over the pregnant person’s belly.
  • A stress echocardiogram is simply an echocardiogram performed right before and right after you exercise. This method checks how the heart responds to stress or physical activity.

It’s important to note that echocardiograms do NOT expose patients to X-rays. Echocardiography uses harmless sound waves called ultrasound.

When Echocardiograms May Be Recommended

It is advised that you speak to your primary care physician if you experience any chest pain or discomfort, fluttering feelings or palpitations in the chest, or shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. Heart disease is the leading cause of death and symptoms should be addressed without delay.

An echocardiogram can help detect:

  • Damage from a heart attack.
  • Heart failure, or where the heart doesn’t pump enough blood around the body.
  • Congenital heart disease, or birth defects that affect the heart.
  • Problems with the heart valves.
  • Cardiomyopathy, or where the walls of the heart become thick or enlarged.
  • Endocarditis, or an infection in the lining of the heart which can damage heart valves.

What You Can Expect During an Echocardiogram

A standard echocardiogram treatment is a simple and painless procedure with zero side effects. At worst, you might find the lubricating gel and probe to be a little chilly but experienced physicians at Southern Maryland Medical Group will do their part to make sure even that is minimal. You may also experience minor discomfort when the electrodes are removed from your skin at the end of the test.

Your physician at Southern Maryland Medical Group will clearly go over how to prepare for your echocardiogram and what you can expect at your appointment.

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Southern Maryland Medical Group has 3 convenient locations to provide professional medical care services in the Southern Maryland area. Call or schedule an appointment with one of our locations to get medical care help. 

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Camp Springs, MD

5801 Allentown Road, Suite 400 Camp Spring, MD 20746

Phone: 301-868- 0150

Billing Inquiries: 301-552-1270

Fax: 301-868-0243

Greenbelt, MD

7500 Greenway Center, Dr #1200 Greenbelt, MD 20770

Phone: 301-486-7580

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Fax: 301-486-7581

Riverdale, MD

6510 Kenilworth Ave, Ste 1400, Riverdale MD 20737

Phone: 301-618-0771

Billing Inquiries: 301-552-1270

Fax: 301-618-0772