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Echocardiography (Echo) at UPMC in Central Pa.

Echocardiography (also known as echocardiogram) is a non-invasive ultrasound procedure used to assess the heart's function and structures. UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute's cardiologists are expert at using this diagnostic tool to identify heart conditions and appropriate treatment plans.

What is echocardiography?

During an echocardiogram, a transducer (similar to a microphone) is placed on the chest at certain locations and angles. The ultrasonic sound waves move through the skin and other body tissues to the heart tissues, bouncing or "echoing" off of the heart structures. These sound waves are sent to a computer that can create moving images of the heart walls and valves.

What are the different types of echocardiograms?

An echocardiogram may utilize several special types of echocardiography:

  • M-mode Echocardiography. This produces an image that is similar to a tracing rather than an actual picture of heart structures.
  • Doppler Echocardiography. Measures and assesses the flow of blood through the heart's chambers and valves.
  • Color Doppler. An enhanced form of Doppler echocardiography in which different colors are used to designate the direction of blood flow.
  • 2-D (two-dimensional) Echocardiography. Used to "see" the actual motion of the heart structures in real-time so that the heart's structures can be observed.
  • 3-D (three-dimensional) echocardiography. Captures three-dimensional views of the heart structures with greater depth than 2-D echo.

What is the purpose of echocardiography?

An echocardiogram may be performed for further evaluation of signs or symptoms that may suggest:

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Aneurysm
  • Valvular heart disease
  • Cardiac tumor
  • Pericarditis

An echocardiogram may be performed for further evaluation of signs or symptoms that may suggest:

  • Atherosclerosis: Atherosclerosis is characterized by plaque inside the arteries. An echocardiogram test will reveal the presence and location of plaque buildup in the arteries.
  • Cardiomyopathy: Cardiomyopathy is an inherited disease that affects the heart muscle. The disease enlarges the muscle, making it harder for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body. An echocardiogram test can easily detect cardiomyopathy by measuring the thickness of the heart muscle.
  • Congenital heart disease: Congenital heart disease refers to any heart condition present at birth. A fetal echocardiography test can detect the disease in an unborn child at 22 weeks of pregnancy. A three-dimensional echocardiography test may be recommended for hard-to-detect cases.
  • Congestive heart failure (CHF): CHF is a chronic condition that alters the heart's ability to pump blood to the rest of the body. Over time, fluid may build up around the heart, causing it to malfunction. A two-dimensional or a Doppler echocardiography test is recommended for detecting CHF.
  • Aneurysm: This refers to the weakening of the artery walls, creating an artery bulge. The condition can be detected easily via a normal echocardiogram test.
  • Valvular heart disease: As the name implies, this disease affects one or more valves of the heart. An echocardiogram is the main test recommended for diagnosing valvular heart disease. An electrocardiogram or a chest X-ray may be used to detect early signs.
  • Cardiac tumor: Cardiac tumors are abnormal, cancerous or non-cancerous growths in the heart. These growths can cause problems with blood flow, so surgery is normally recommended. An echocardiogram can detect the exact position of these growths.
  • Pericarditis: Pericarditis is an inflammation of the fibrous sac surrounding the heart, commonly known as the pericardium. Symptoms of this condition include sharp pain across the chest, shoulders, neck and back. The detection of pericarditis is implemented through an echocardiogram test.

How To Prepare

Your cardiologist will explain the procedure to you and offer you the opportunity to ask any questions that you might have about the procedure. No prior preparation, such as fasting or sedation is required. Be sure to notify your doctor of all medications (prescription and over-the-counter) and herbal supplements that you are taking or if you have a pacemaker.

What to Expect

  • An echocardiogram may be performed on an outpatient basis or as part of your stay in a hospital.
  • Lying on a table or bed, positioned on your left side, you will be connected to an EKG monitor that records the electrical activity of the heart and monitors the heart during the procedure. The EKG tracings that record the electrical activity of the heart will be compared to the images displayed on the echocardiogram monitor.
  • The technologist will apply warmed gel to your chest and then place the transducer probe on the gel, moving the transducer probe around, with various amounts of pressure to obtain images of different locations and structures of your heart. The amount of pressure behind the probe should not be uncomfortable.

After the Procedure

After the procedure has been completed, the technologist will wipe the gel from your chest and remove the EKG electrode pads.

You may resume your usual diet and activities unless your doctor advises you differently. Generally, there is no special type of care following an echocardiogram. However, your doctor may give you additional or alternate instructions after the procedure, depending on your diagnosis or physical condition.

Need more information?

Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery Practices
Cumberland/Dauphin/Franklin/Perry Counties: 717-731-0101
Pediatric : 717-761-0200
Hanover: 717-637-1738
York: 717-849-5576
Lancaster/Lititz: 717-299-5000
Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery: 717-231-8555

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Cardiovascular Diagnostic Services
Located at UPMC Outpatient Center
2201 Brunswick Drive
Hanover, PA 17331

Phone: 717-316-2195
Fax: 717-316-2242

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
Located at Lebanon Valley Advanced Care Center
1251 East Main Street
Suite 3
Annville, PA 17003

Adult Cardiology: 717-731-0101
Pediatric Cardiology: 717-761-0200

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
360 Alexander Spring Road
Carlisle, PA 17013

Adult Cardiology: 717-243-6557
Pediatric Cardiology: 717-761-0200
Fax: 717-243-0102 

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
900 Century Drive
Suite 100
Mechanicsburg, PA 17055

Phone: 717-591-3660 or 800-248-0257
Fax: 717-591-3661

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
Located at Medical Professional Center of Newport
300 Bretz Court
Newport, PA 17074

Phone: 717-567-7246 or 800-248-0257
Fax: 717-567-2621 

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
2808 Old Post Road
Harrisburg, PA 17110

Adult Cardiology: 717-920-4400
Pediatric Cardiology: 717-761-0200
Fax: 717-920-4401

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
12 Saint Paul Drive
Suite 205
Chambersburg, PA 17201

Adult Cardiology: 717-217-6881
Pediatric Cardiology: 717-761-0200
Fax: 717-217-6889

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
Located at Commerce Park Professional Center
20 Expedition Trail
Suite 203
Gettysburg, PA 17325

Phone: 717-637-1738
Fax: 717-646-7430

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
Located at UPMC Outpatient Center
2201 Brunswick Drive
Hanover, PA 17331

Phone: 717-637-1738
Fax: 717-646-7430

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
Located at Medical Office Building
310 Stock Street
Suite 3
Hanover, PA 17331

Phone: 717-637-1738
Fax: 717-646-7430

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
16324 Mount Airy Road
Lower Level
Shrewsbury, PA 17361

Phone: 717-849-5576
Fax: 717-718-9972

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
1600 6th Avenue
Suite 105
York, PA 17403

Phone: 717-849-5576
Fax: 717-718-9972 

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute
1555 Highlands Drive
Suite 100
Lititz, PA 17543

Phone: 717-299-5000
Fax: 717-431-1205 

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute (formerly Cardiac Consultants)
1697 Crown Avenue
Suite 100
Lancaster, PA 17601

Phone: 717-299-5000
Fax: 717-431-1205

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