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Kalispell Regional Medical Center

Echocardiography Lab

KRMC

What is echocardiography?

Echocardiography is a means of producing an image of your heart using ultrasound.

Kalispell Regional Medical Center's Echocardiography Lab draws on a team of doctors, nurses and cardiac sonographers to offer four distinct types of echocardiograms. Your doctor or allied health professional orders the type best suited to you in order to produce a clear ultrasound image of your heart, then uses that image to evaluate the health of your heart muscle and valves.

The KRMC Echocardiography Lab is accredited by the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission.

What are the four types of echocardiograms?

Echocardiogram
A cardiac ultrasound that helps your doctor evaluate your heart at rest. A transducer creates harmless sound waves and captures those that bounce back off your heart, producing images of the heart chambers and valves.

Stress Echocardiogram
A cardiac ultrasound combined with walking on a treadmill to evaluate your heart's response to exercise. The cardiologist will compare the ultrasound images, blood pressure response, and electrocardiogram at rest and after you've walked on the treadmill.

Dobutamine Stress Echocardiogram
A cardiac ultrasound combined with a medication called dobutamine. If your health prevents you from exercising, you may receive dobutamine, used to increase your heart rate. The cardiologist will evaluate the ultrasound images, blood pressure response, and electrocardiogram at rest and throughout the time the medication is administered.

Transesophageal Echocardiogram
A cardiac ultrasound that uses a flexible tube about the size of your index finger. The tube is inserted into your mouth and down your esophagus. At the tip of the tube is a small probe that creates sound waves, which are used to produce and record images.

Who staffs the Echocardiography Lab?

A cardiac sonographer will conduct your standard echocardiogram. If you are scheduled for a stress echocardiogram, a registered nurse, a cardiac sonographer and a cardiologist (or cardiology nurse practitioner or physician assistant) will conduct the procedure.

A cardiac sonographer is available to answer your questions about the technology used in the test. A nurse is available to answer any questions about preparation and what happens during the test itself.

What can I expect during an echocardiography exam?

During a cardiac ultrasound, the skin on your chest is coated with a warmed gel and a transducer is moved across your chest area. The transducer creates harmless sound waves and captures those that bounce back, producing images of the heart chambers and valves. These high-frequency sound waves are the same type of ultrasound used to examine a fetus in pregnant women and to view the kidneys, liver and other organs. No radiation is involved.

You will be lying on your left side during the procedure. You may be asked to take a few deep breaths as the transducer is moved over your chest, and the technician may press on the wall of your chest in order to record certain images.

Images are displayed on a screen as the test progresses – in fact, you may be watching them and, if the sound is activated, you will even hear the rush of blood flowing into and out of your heart chambers. You will be conscious and aware throughout the procedure, which typically takes about 30 minutes.

The cardiac sonographer is not trained to read and give you the results of the test. But a cardiologist, a physician who specializes in heart care, may be present and able to explain the results immediately. If not, your results will be forwarded to your referring physician, who will discuss these results with you during your next visit.

How do I prepare?

There is no reason to limit your activity before or after your echocardiogram, unless directed by your doctor. If you are scheduled for a stress echocardiogram, wear comfortable shoes and clothing that will let you move easily while walking on the treadmill. If you normally are on a regimen of medications, your referring doctor will tell you which ones to take or refrain from taking before the test.

The day before your test, a nurse from the Echocardiography Lab's holding room will call to fill you in on all the details and answer your questions.

Where will I go?

Enter Kalispell Regional Medical Center through the Patient Registration entrance on the west end of the hospital. An admitting representative will check you in, and an Echocardiography Lab staff member will come to escort you to the cardiac ultrasound procedure room.