Question: What is an echocardiogram (ECHO), and should it be done in all patients with heart failure?
Answer: An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart. We're able to get pictures of the heart, in great detail, by transmitting ultrasounds typically between the ribs in order to see a picture of the heart. Not only can we see a picture of what the heart looks like, but we can watch it move in real-time.
We get a picture of the valves, we get a picture of the heart muscle, we get a picture of how the heart is squeezing and how strong it is and beyond that by using special techniques
We can get very sophisticated measure of how the heart functions. Things such as how much the heart is pumping? How much leak is in a given valve? How narrow is a given valve?, and other information that tells us a great deal about the heart's function.
We can even estimate the pressures in the heart using sophisticated techniques combining Doppler and other techniques.
So an echocardiogram is a critical component to the evaluation of a patient with heart failure. It really forms a basis of what type of heart failure a given person may have and how we are going to go about treating it.