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Echocardiogram – Types, Results and Costs

If doctors suspect problems in the valves or chambers of the heart, or in its ability to pump blood, echocardiogram is suggested.

Echocardiogram is used by doctors to assess how a patient’s heart is beating and it monitors how it is pumping the blood. This cardiac device uses sound waves that the echocardiogram translates into images of the heart. The echocardiogram can be used to identify abnormalities in the muscles of the heart and in the valves.

There are several types of echocardiograms performed and each one of them implies diverse but usually light risks. The appropriate procedure is chosen depending on the information the doctor needs in order to evaluate the condition of the heart and pick the treatment to follow.

Types of Echocardiogram

  • Transthoracic – standard and noninvasive. A special gel is spread on the chest where the transducer is pressed and the ultrasound beam is directed. The device records the heart waves and the computer converts them into images.
  • Transesophageal – It is used when difficulties arise in visualizing the heart. The procedure consists of guiding a flexible tube and the transducer down the throat, to get a clearer image.
  • Doppler – evaluates the bouncing of blood cells and helps measuring the speed and direction of the blood flow.
  • Stress – ultrasound images are taken after a treadmill session.

Among the few risks involved in an echocardiogram we find:

  • Discomfort
  • Sore throat
  • Irregular heartbeat

Echocardiogram Results

The procedure may show the patient’s:

  • heart size
  • if the heart  is weakened or damaged
  • if it suffers from high blood pressure or diseases

It is also a common procedure to assess:

  • pumping strength
  • muscle damage
  • problems in the valve
  • defects in the heart

Echocardiogram Costs

Despite the simplicity of the procedure, echocardiogram costs are surprisingly high. It can range between $1,000 and $2,000 or more, depending on the location. In the United States health insurers do not cover the treatment full-price, that’s why echocardiogram is a common reason for patients to look for options abroad. In countries that are popular with medical travelers the prices can go as low as $150.

As an additional cost, it is necessary to pay for a radiologist to read the echocardiogram results.