Echocardiography

Written by: 
Dr Roger Henderson

Another test often performed in people suspected of having a heart attackThe death of a section of heart muscle caused by an interruption in its blood supply. Also called a myocardial infarction. is echocardiographyThe use of ultrasound to examine the heart as it is pumping. . This involves images of the heart taken using ultrasound. It can be done at the patient's bedside, and is used to assess the function of the left and right sides of the heart.

It also shows up potential complications resulting from a heart attackThe death of a section of heart muscle caused by an interruption in its blood supply. Also called a myocardial infarction., such as a bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. clot in the wall of the heart, a defect in the wall between the two main chambers of the heart, and heart valveA structure that allows fluid to flow in one direction only, preventing backflow. problems.[1]

Ultrasound can also be used to show up areas of the heart muscleTissue made up of cells that can contract to bring about movement. that are contracting weakly, a possible effect of a heart attackThe death of a section of heart muscle caused by an interruption in its blood supply. Also called a myocardial infarction..[2]

A technique called myocardial contrast echocardiographyThe use of ultrasound to examine the heart as it is pumping. involves injecting a special dye called a contrast agentA substance taken (either by mouth or into a vein) by a person who is about to undergo an imaging investigation, to improve the visibility of the structures being imaged. Also known as contrast medium. into a vein: the dye circulates in the bloodstream until it reaches the heart, allowing it to be seen more clearly. This imaging method can reveal any disease of the coronaryRelating to the arteries supplying the heart itself. arteries that may be limiting bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. flow to the heart.[3]

Myocardial contrast echocardiographyThe use of ultrasound to examine the heart as it is pumping. can also assess the function of the heart's left ventricleEither of the two lower chambers of the heart, or any of the four cavities within the brain. (one of the two lower chambers of the heart), and establish how much heart muscleTissue made up of cells that can contract to bring about movement. is still contracting normally after a heart attackThe death of a section of heart muscle caused by an interruption in its blood supply. Also called a myocardial infarction.. This can be important in assessing the person's outlook, or prognosis, after a heart attackThe death of a section of heart muscle caused by an interruption in its blood supply. Also called a myocardial infarction..[4]

References: 
  1. Boon NA, Colledge NR and Walker BR. Davidson's Principles and Practice of Medicine. Churchill Livingstone Elsevier. 2006; 20th edition.
  2. Improving the early diagnosisThe process of determining which condition a patient may have. of acuteHas a sudden onset. myocardial infarctionDeath of an area of heart muscle due to poor blood supply.. Banerjee A. Postgrad Med J 1996;72:705-8.
  3. Myocardial contrast echocardiographyThe use of ultrasound to examine the heart as it is pumping. for distinguishing ischemic from nonischemic first-onset acuteHas a sudden onset. heart failureFailure of the heart to pump adequately.: insights into the mechanism of acuteHas a sudden onset. heart failureFailure of the heart to pump adequately.. Senior R, Janardhanan R, Jeetley P et al. Circulation 2005;112;1587-93.
  4. Myocardial contrast echocardiographyThe use of ultrasound to examine the heart as it is pumping. in ST elevation myocardial infarctionDeath of an area of heart muscle due to poor blood supply.: ready for prime time? Hayat SA and Senior R. European Heart Journal 2008;29:299-314.