Using noninvasive and painless high frequency sound waves, echocardiograms play a critical role in diagnosing and confirming cardiac structural and valvular diseases. They include the standard transthoracic echocardiography (TTE), Doppler echocardiography and transesophageal echocardiography (TEE).
MDCA cardiologists are also experts in working with new 3D echocardiography technology. In particular, 3D TEE has enabled the beating heart to be viewed in superior and lifelike three-dimensional images that serve as accurate guidelines in planning for valvular surgery and percutaneous heart catheterization procedures.
Another test to help diagnose valvular disease is cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (C-MRI). The most commonly used procedures performed by MDCA cardiologists include:
- Transthoracic Echocardiogram (TTE). This procedure is the most popular for taking a quick and painless look at heart structure and valves. It uses a hand-held transducer atop the chest which bounces sound waves off the heart and other internal organs to create images on a screen.
- Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE). TEE is similar to a TTE. However, the transducer is passed down the throat and into the esophagus for a closer reading and clearer image of the heart and valves, bypassing sound wave interference created by the lungs, chest and breastbone.
- Doppler Echocardiogram. This procedure is similar to the echocardiography in a TTE or TEE, but it also uses Doppler technology to determine the speed and direction of blood flow. The “Doppler Effect” measures the change in frequency of sound waves of a moving object (in this case, flowing blood) from a stationary source (the transducer). Blood speed can be determined by measuring wavelength differences.
- 3D Echocardiography and 3D TEE. This up-and-coming technology has created much excitement and anticipation among MDCA cardiologists. It uses advanced technology in the ultrasound probe and processing system to produce superior three-dimensional images of the beating heart. It is ideal for assessing heart structure, locating valve defects and determining the presence of cardiomyopathy (heart wall thickening). 3D images create a unique perspective and give the cardiologist a more complete view of the valve structure and function.
- Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging (C-MRI). MRI is a safe, noninvasive and painless way to assess heart structure and function. Using powerful magnetic and radio waves, cardiac MRI technology creates clear anatomical pictures on a computer screen for easy viewing and analysis. MRI exams are ideal for assessing images of the beating heart, creating both moving and static pictures. It is used to assess heart valve problems, tumors and congenital heart defects.
Only TEE procedures require preparation and sedation, since the transducer probe must enter the mouth and be passed down the throat into the esophagus. Physicians will relax the gag reflex with an anesthetic agent (spray or lozenge), and patients will also receive an intravenous sedative similar t