An echocardiogram, often referred to as a cardiac echo or simply an echo, is a sonogram of the heart. (It is not abbreviated as ECG, because that is an abbreviation for an electrocardiogram.) Echocardiography uses standard two-dimensional, three-dimensional, and Doppler ultrasound to create images of the heart.
Echocardiography has become routinely used in the diagnosis, management, and follow-up of patients with any suspected or known heart diseases. It is one of the most widely used diagnostic tests in cardiology. It can provide a wealth of helpful information, including the size and shape of the heart (internal chamber size quantification), pumping capacity, and the location and extent of any tissue damage. An echocardiogram can also give physicians other estimates of heart function, such as a calculation of the cardiac output, ejection fraction, and diastolic function (how well the heart relaxes).
Echocardiography can help detect cardiomyopathies, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, dilated cardiomyopathy, and many others. The use of stress echocardiography may also help determine whether any chest pain or associated symptoms are related to heart disease. The biggest advantage to echocardiography is that it is not invasive (does not involve breaking the skin or entering body cavities) and has no known risks or side effects.
Not only can an echocardiogram create ultrasound images of heart structures, but it can also produce accurate assessment of the blood flowing through the heart by Doppler echocardiography, using pulsed- or continuous-wave Doppler ultrasound. This allows assessment of both normal and abnormal blood flow through the heart. Color Doppler, as well as spectral Doppler, is used to visualize any abnormal communications between the left and right sides of the heart, any leaking of blood through the valves (valvular regurgitation), and estimate how well the valves open (or do not open in the case of valvular stenosis). The Doppler technique can also be used for tissue motion and velocity measurement, by tissue Doppler echocardiography.
Lower Extremity Arterial
Doppler ultrasonography of the lower extremity arteries is a valuable technique, although it is less frequently indicated for peripheral arterial disease than for deep vein thrombosis or varicose veins. Ultrasonography can diagnose stenosis through the direct visualization of plaques and through the analysis of the Doppler waveforms in stenotic and poststenotic arteries. To perform Doppler ultrasonography of the lower extremity arteries, the operator should be familiar with the arterial anatomy of the lower extremities, basic scanning techniques, and the parameters used in color and pulsed-wave Doppler ultrasonography.
Using gray-scale technique, a significant atherosclerotic vascular lesion can be detected only by thickening of the vessel wall or segmental narrowing of the lumen (which usually represents plaque or mural thrombus). Aneurysms and intimal flaps may also be identified.
Lower-extremity peripheral arterial disease (LEPAD) is often diagnosed by using US, which depicts a change in the flow pattern on Doppler spectrum imaging. Proximal to the lesion, the flow pattern is normal. At the stenosis, the peak systolic velocity increases in proportion to the degree of stenosis. The diastolic portion of the Doppler waveform depends on the artery distal to the lesion and the severity of the lesion. Diastolic flow may be significantly increased or absent. Systolic velocity distal to the lesion is equal or lower than the velocity proximal to the stenosis.
The absence of a flow signal may represent occlusion, vascular calcifications, or technical error. Thrombosis is usually seen as echogenic material in the artery. Large collateral branches are likely to indicate high-grade stenosis or more distal occlusion.
A thorough examination provides information about the entire common femoral, superficial femoral, and popliteal arteries. Examination of the deep femoral and tibial vessels is usually limited.
Multiple published studies evaluated the femoropopliteal segment. The reported sensitivity was more than 85%, and the specificity was more than 92% in detecting segmental arterial lesions.
Lower Extremity Venous
& Venous Insufficiency
Ultrasound is safe and painless, and produces pictures of the inside of the body using sound waves. Ultrasound imaging, also called ultrasound scanning or sonography, involves the use of a small transducer (probe) and ultrasound gel placed directly on the skin. High-frequency sound waves are transmitted from the probe through the gel into the body. The transducer collects the sounds that bounce back and a computer then uses those sound waves to create an image. Ultrasound examinations do not use ionizing radiation (as used in x-rays), thus there is no radiation exposure to the patient. Because ultrasound images are captured in real-time, they can show the structure and movement of the body's internal organs, as well as blood flowing through blood vessels.
Ultrasound imaging is a noninvasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions.
Venous ultrasound provides pictures of the veins throughout the body.
A Doppler ultrasound study may be part of a venous ultrasound examination.
Doppler ultrasound, also called color Doppler ultrasonography, is a special ultrasound technique that allows the physician to see and evaluate blood flow through arteries and veins in the abdomen, arms, legs, neck and/or brain (in infants and children) or within various body organs such as the liver or kidneys.
The most common reason for a venous ultrasound exam is to search for blood clots, especially in the veins of the leg. This condition is often referred to as deep vein thrombosis or DVT. These clots may break off and pass into the lungs, where they can cause a dangerous condition called pulmonary embolism. If the blood clot in the leg is found early enough, treatment can be started to prevent it from passing to the lung.
A venous ultrasound study is also performed to determine the cause of long-standing leg swelling. In people with a common condition called "varicose veins", the valves that normally keep blood flowing back to the heart may be damaged, and venous ultrasound can help identify the damaged valves and abnormal blood flow and aid in guiding placement of a needle or catheter into a vein. Sonography can help locate the exact site of the vein and avoid complications, such as bleeding or damage to a nearby nerve or artery also map out the veins in the leg or arm so that pieces of vein may be removed and used to bypass a narrowed or blocked blood vessel. An example is using portions of vein from the leg to surgically bypass narrowed heart (coronary) arteries.