An echocardiogram (also known as an echo) is a noninvasive test that uses sound waves to evaluate the heart’s function and structures. During an echo, an ultrasound transducer is moved over the heart. The transducer emits ultrasonic sound waves at a frequency too high to be heard.
When the transducer is placed on a patient’s chest at certain locations and angles, the sound waves pass through the skin and other body tissues to the heart, where the waves bounce or echo off its structures. The transducer also picks up the reflected waves and sends them to a computer, which interprets the echoes into images of the heart walls and valves.
A transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) is another type of echo. For a TEE, a small transducer is passed down the esophagus (the tube through which food passes to the stomach) to provide a clearer image of heart structures.
An event recorder is a small, portable, battery-powered machine that a patient can use to obtain an echo over a longer period of time; patients can use the device for several weeks. Either the echoing is recorded continuously during the testing period, or each time symptoms are experienced, the patient presses a button to record the echo sample. This information is then transmitted to their doctor's office for evaluation.
A tilt table test is done while a patient is connected to an echo machine as well as blood pressure monitors. The patient is secured to a table that tilts and taken from a horizontal to vertical position. This determines if the patient is experiencing sudden drops in blood pressure or slow pulse rates with position changes.
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