An ultrasound is a complementary test based on using a device (the ultrasound machine) that provides an image of the area under study, thanks to the use of ultrasound.
An ultrasound machine works by emitting a series of sounds that the human ear cannot hear – the so-called ultrasounds – depending on the “bounce” of these waves depending on the density and consistency of each tissue in different parts of the body.
Depending on the area to be studied, we can speak of abdominal ultrasound (when it evaluates the abdomen), a renal ultrasound (when it examines the kidneys), fetal ultrasound (when it analyzes the fetus during pregnancy), etc.
Echocardiography (or echocardiogram) is the study of the heart and the neighboring great vessels using the image offered by ultrasound when reflected in the different tissues of this organ. The reflected ultrasound is captured again by the echocardiography system. Depending on its characteristics, it can reconstruct an image of the heart and the large veins and arteries on a screen. This reconstruction has traditionally been performed in two dimensions, although recently, the echocardiogram is also available in three dimensions.
To analyze the direction, direction, velocity, and acceleration of the blood inside the heart, arteries, and veins, a study is made using the Doppler technique.
Unlike other diagnostic tests of the heart that offer moving images, the echocardiogram does not subject the patient to any radiation. It also makes it possible to evaluate the different anatomical structures of the patient without using contrast media or being invasive.
Cardiac ultrasound is mainly used to look at the legs, arms, and neck blood vessels. Vascular Doppler offers very relevant information about the state of the blood vessels using ultrasound through a probe aligned with the artery or vein to be studied.
In addition, this non-invasive diagnostic test allows the intensity of blood flow to be assessed, thanks to the Doppler effect that the red blood cells reflect the ultrasound in proportion to the speed at which they circulate in the blood. Thus, when approaching the probe, the blood flow appears in red and when moving away in blue.
Depending on the speed of the blood, a graphic pattern is created that allows studying the movement at this level and the rate at which the blood circulates through this point. It is mainly used to assess the circulation of the neck arteries (carotid arteries) or the vessels that carry blood to the legs, arms, and other organs.
- It helps to decide whether a treatment should be surgical or with medication.
- Diagnosis of thrombi in the venous system of the legs.
- Obstruction in the circulation of the neck arteries (carotid arteries), legs, and arms.
- Detection of aneurysms in the arteries.
- Varicose veins
- Venous insufficiency
To produce, detect, and process ultrasound data, numerous variables must be controlled, many of them under the operator’s direct control, which is why this type of professionals need to take a specialized cardiac ultrasound course and keep themselves constantly updated. For this, the ultrasonographer must know the methods used to generate ultrasound data, the theory, and the handling of the instruments that detect, represent, and store the acoustic information generated during clinical examinations. For example, the differentiation of tissues is achieved by the acoustic impedance of these issues, that is, the resistance or impediment offered to the passage of longitudinal mechanical waves. Hence, it is not the same intensity of gray in a bone as in soft tissue to a liquid. Instead, the range and power in the grayscale allow the ultrasonographer to differentiate one tissue from another or its abnormalities.
It is essential to have anatomical knowledge and develop skills in the performance of ultrasounds to give an accurate diagnostic interpretation and avoid mistakes that can severely affect the patient, as well as the credibility and reliability of the ultrasonographer. Therefore, it is essential to take a cardiac ultrasound course in an accredited and experienced institution to achieve this.