Two-Dimensional Echocardiography, or 2D Echo, is a test that uses ultrasound to provide 2D images of the heart, paracardiac structures, walls, and vessels. The pictures display a cross sectional slice of the beating heart, including valves and major blood vessels.
The technician or doctor performing the test uses a small hand-held device called a transducer to send signals and receive sound waves. Heart walls and valves reflect part of the sound waves back to the transducer to produce pictures of the heart. These images are displayed on a TV screen. They’re recorded on videotape and special paper so the cardiologist can review and interpret them later.
The cardiologist can look at the reports to measure each section of the heart, to study the motion and look of the valves, and the function of the heart muscle. This information helps the doctor determine things like:
- The quality of the heart. Is there pericardial effusion or fluid in the pericardium (the sac that surrounds the heart), congenital heart disease, blood clots or tumors within the heart, active infection of the heart valves, abnormal elevation of pressure within the lungs?
- How the heart is pumping. Is it normal or reduced? If it’s reduced, is it mild or severe?
- Size of the chambers
- Dimension, volume and the thickness of the walls
- Structure, thickness and movement of each heart valve.
- Blood volume status
The test is performed in multiple steps.
- Patients are asked to remove their clothing from the waist up and given a gown.
- Sticky patches or electrodes are attached to the patient’s chest and shoulders and connected to the (ECG) machine. Patients with hair on the chest may be shaved so the electrodes can stick better.
- The technician applies a colorless gel to the patient’s chest or the transducer head (piece of equipment that takes a “picture” or video of the heart).
- The technician asks the patient to lay on their left side and moves the transducer across different parts of their chest to get pictures of different angles of the heart.
- The technician may ask the patient to hold their breath or breathe slowly in order to get better pictures. The images are recorded.
- The cardiologist reviews and interprets the recordings.
The 2D Echo test is painless and non-invasive and typically completed in 20 – 45 minutes. It is extremely safe. There are no special preparations and no known risks associated with the use of ultrasound.