In this test, not to be confused with electrocardiography (EKG) (because they sound alike) a sonographer puts an ultrasonic probe over the heart (similar to what the obstetrician uses to check the fetus) and looks for valve competency and flow between chambers of the heart and flow to the lungs and rest of the body. Before I go on, I need to explain the major valves in the heart that are primarily affected and where they are located. The Mitral Valve is located between the two chambers on the left side of the heart. The Aortic Valve is the out flow valve between the left ventricle (pumping chamber) and the rest of the body.
The Echocardiogram provides the doctor with vital information including:
1. Pulmonary Artery Pressure: It measures the blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries (arteries to the lung) to assess or diagnose Pulmonary Hypertension.
2. Ejection Fraction measurement (EF): The heart is simply a pump that fills with fluid and squirts it out. As a pump has to maintain priming, the heart will retain 35-40% of its blood to remain in the heart and mix with incoming blood. The rest (60-65%) is squirted into the body or ejected (hence the name Ejection Fraction) which is normally 60-65%. In Heart Failure it drops to 30% and levels of 10% are very severe.
3. Valve Status: A valve can do several abnormal things. If it Prolapses, it flexes into the chamber it came from but does not regurgitate. It can regurgitate, a condition in which blood flows backward into the chamber supplying it. It can also stenosis which means it does't open as far.