The Yakima Heart Center Echocardiography Department was founded in 1976 and is directed by Robert A. Ortiz M.D., F.A.C.C. and Roger E. Vielbig M.D., F.A.C.C.. All of our technologists performing tests are nationally registered in cardiac sonography and our department is accredited through the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission (IAC), a national commission that ensures that labs perform high quality exams.
An echocardiogram is a test that uses ultrasound to create a moving picture of the heart. This test provides detailed information about the structure and function of your heart, specifically the valves and walls of the heart.
Echocardiography is often combined with Doppler ultrasound and color Doppler to evaluate blood flow across the heart’s valves.
Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE); Echocardiogram - transthoracic; Doppler ultrasound of the heart; Surface echo
A trained sonographer will perform the test. An instrument called a transducer that transmits high-frequency sound waves is placed on your ribs near the breastbone and directed toward the heart. Images will be taken underneath and slightly to the left of your nipple (at the apex of your heart). The transducer picks up the echoes of the sound waves and transmits them as electrical impulses. The echocardiography machine converts these impulses into moving pictures of the heart. Another instrument, a Doppler probe, records the motion of the blood through the heart.
An echocardiogram allows doctors to see the heart beating and to see many of the structures of the heart. Occasionally, your lungs, ribs, or body tissue may prevent the sound waves from providing a clear picture of heart function. In this case, the sonographer may inject a small amount of liquid (contrast) through an IV to better see the inside of the heart (see Bubble Study). Very rarely, more invasive testing using special echocardiography probes may be necessary.
There is no preparation necessary for a resting echocardiogram.
You will be asked to remove your clothes from the waist up and lie on an examination table on your back. Electrodes will be placed on your chest. A gel will be spread on your chest and then the transducer will be applied. You will feel a slight pressure from the transducer. You may be asked to breathe in a certain way or to roll over onto your left side. The test will take approximately 30 to 60 minutes. There is no preparation necessary for this exam and you will have no after-effects.
A specially trained cardiologist will interpret the test and a report will be sent to your physician within one week.
Stress Echo: Your physician may decide to have you exercise on a treadmill in order to assess heart function at stress. You will have a resting echocardiogram first, then walk at a mild to moderate pace on a treadmill. When you have completed the treadmill you will immediately lie down on a table and a sonographer will take another set of echo images of your heart to compare to the resting images. Please allow 60 minutes for a stress echo test.
Dobutamine Echo: If you are unable to walk on a treadmill, your physician may order a Dobutamine echo test. Dobutamine is a chemical that increases the rate and contractibility of the heart in order to simulate exercise. As with a stress echo, a resting echo will be performed first.
You will be lying on a table throughout the procedure. An IV will be placed in your arm, a blood pressure cuff will be on the other arm, and ECG electrodes will be attached to your chest. The dobutamine will be infused for approximately 12 – 15 minutes, or until your target heart rate is attained. The sonographer will be imaging your heart throughout the infusion. When the testing is completed, you will be able to drive and return to your normal activities. Please allow 60 minutes for a stress echo test.
Preparation: You will be fasting for 4 hours prior to the test.
Bubble Study: Sometimes during an echocardiogram better pictures can be seen if a material called “contrast” is used during the ultrasound. One type of contrast is saline (sterile salt water). When saline is used it is called a “bubble study.” During a bubble study the nurse will shake the saline water until it forms small bubbles. The bubbles are then injected into the vein through an intravenous line (IV). The bubble study is safe. The bubble solution is easily absorbed in the bloodstream.