What is Transthoracic Echocardiogram?

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Transthoracic echocardiogram is an examination of the shape and function of the heart and part of its internal structures. The images are obtained through the use of ultrasounds that are harmless and do not involve radiation.

What is it?

This test enables the doctor to quantify the strength of the heart, analyse the function of the heart valves, and detect any kind of disease of the heart muscle. The quality of the study depends on what is known as the "echocardiographic window", in other words, the positioning of the heart with respect to the lungs, ribs, and subcutaneous fat, which can hinder the penetration of ultrasound. In some cases, the presence of a "poor acoustic window" can limit the quality of this technique. The causes of a "poor acoustic window" are obesity, the presence of breast implants, lung disease, chest deformity, previous chest surgery, and so on.

How is it done?

To perform this test the patient must undress from the waist up. The test is carried out with the patient lying on their side on a bed. The operator performing the test may be either a technician or nurse specialised in echocardiography, a student doctor, or a member of the medical staff specialised in imaging. The images are taken with an ultrasound probe, so a gel is applied beforehand to enable the ultrasound to reach the heart. In most cases, three adhesive electrodes (similar to those used for an electrocardiogram) are placed to monitor the cardiac rhythm. The test takes approximately 15-30 minutes.

What complications could there be?

It is an external test that does not involve complications.

How do you prepare yourself?

You do not need to fast or take any special measures before the test. You should tell the medical staff if you wear a breast prosthesis on your left breast, have skin problems on your chest, or have had previous lung operations.

The imaging test is included in your medical record so that doctors have access to it.

Substantiated information by:

Laura Sanchís Ruiz

Published: 18 July 2019
Updated: 18 July 2019


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