Family Medicine Kew Gardens
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Echocardiography, also known as an ultrasound of the heart, is a diagnostic test used to examine the heart by creating images out of sound waves. This helps determine the size and shape of the heart, as well as how well the different components are functioning. 

An echocardiogram can be used to examine:

  • The size of the heart
  • The strength of the heart muscles
  • Heart valve malfunctions
  • Heart structure abnormalities
  • Problems in the aorta
  • Blood clots or tumors

The results of the test are often used to diagnose high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, congenital heart defects, aneurysms or other heart conditions.

There are several different types of echocardiography, used to diagnose different conditions. All procedures are minimally invasive and may be performed during a cardiac stress test or as a routine pregnancy exam. The most common type of echocardiogram test is a transthoracic echocardiogram, which uses a transducer to collect an ultrasound image.

An echocardiogram is a painless procedure performed in your doctor's office in less than an hour. You may be required to fast for 8 hours before the exam, in order for a special dye to be visible within the heart. The images of the heart are shown on a video monitor in real time for the doctor and patient to view during the exam. The results are fully analyzed by your doctor after the exam. There are no risks associated with an echocardiogram, and patients can return to their normal activities immediately after the exam.

Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)

An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is a noninvasive diagnostic exam performed to detect electrical activity in the heart. It is commonly performed after patients have experienced heart attack symptoms including chest pain, shortness of breath and heart palpitations, or as part of a routine heart disease screening. An ECG produces a record of waves that relate to the electrical impulses that occur during each beat of a patient's heart.

This test is performed by attaching electrical wires, called electrodes, to the arms, legs and chest. The ECG machine is then started, recording your heart's electrical activity, showing how quickly and regularly your heart beats, as well as the size of the chambers and thickness of the heart walls. It is important for patients to remain still during this test, as muscle movement may interfere with results. Abnormal results from an ECG may indicate signs of a heart condition, which should be further investigated.

Ankle Brachial Index (ABI)

An ankle brachial index, or ABI, is performed to check for peripheral artery disease (PAD). Peripheral artery disease is a condition involving blockages in the arteries of the arms or legs. If left untreated, peripheral artery disease can cause leg pain, stroke, heart attack, or poor circulation.

No special preparations are necessary before undergoing an ankle brachial index. During the ankle brachial index test, you will lie down on a table, and a technician will measure your blood pressure in both arms. The technician will then measure your blood pressure in arteries in the left ankle and use a Doppler ultrasound to produce images of those arteries. An ankle brachial index usually only takes a few minutes and is painless.

Results are often available immediately after the ankle brachial index test; your doctor will discuss the results with you at this point. If peripheral artery disease has been detected, your doctor will develop a customized treatment plan to prevent your condition from worsening. Even if the results show no signs of peripheral artery disease, regular ankle brachial index testing may be required if you are at risk of developing the condition.

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