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Kartik Agusala, M.D. Answers Questions On Echocardiography

Kartik Agusala, M.D. Answers Questions On: Echocardiography

What are the advantages of echocardiography compared to other types of cardiovascular imaging?

Echocardiography (“echo”) is a cornerstone of imaging technology that’s used extensively in cardiology.

Using ultrasound – the same technology used on pregnant women’s bellies – to create images, echocardiography provides excellent, comprehensive information about the structure and function of the heart, including its valves and chambers.

Because it doesn’t use (or expose patients to) radiation, echocardiography can be used repetitively with no negative health impact.

Also, because echo is real-time imaging, we can examine the heart while it’s functioning – like watching a movie – which is very useful. UT Southwestern Medical Center’s expert echo technologists do an outstanding job of creating high-quality images that answer the clinical question.

Another advantage of echocardiography compared to other types of cardiovascular imaging is that it’s very accessible to patients. It’s a readily available and fairly easy test to undergo, whereas imaging modalities such as cardiac CT and MRI can be more involved.

Are there different ways to perform an echocardiogram?

Yes. A transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE) is an external, chest-wall study, while a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) involves inserting a small tube with a camera down the throat.

TEE and other types of cardiovascular imaging are typically used if questions remain after TTE imaging, to guide certain surgical procedures, and when there’s a specific indication for other types of imaging. These indications include suspected blood clots or infections in hard-to-see areas of the heart or heart valves.

Who should not have an echocardiogram?

Virtually everyone can have a noninvasive TTE study given that there is almost zero risk, but there are patients who may be higher risk for TEE imaging.

Those include people who have had major throat, esophageal, or upper-stomach surgery or radiation to the chest; who have serious swallowing problems or a history of vomiting blood; and those with low platelet counts (“thin blood”).