Cardiology

 

Innovations: Echocardiography gives cardiologists a powerful diagnostic advantage

Sound waves provide unparalleled pictures of heart disease

A man in his thirties collapses in the Emergency Department at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. With the help of echocardiography - a safe, non-invasive, portable imaging system for taking detailed pictures of the heart - the patient is quickly diagnosed with a potentially fatal blood clot in his lungs. Life-saving, clot-busting drugs are immediately administered.

This real-life scenario is just one dramatic example of the benefits of echocardiography, says cardiologist David Samenuk, MD. Also called cardiac ultrasound, the imaging system uses high-frequency sound waves to create comprehensive images of the outside and inside of the heart and the major connecting blood vessels.

Diagnosing palpitations, chest pains, heart murmurs and more

As a board-certified specialist in echocardiography, Dr. Samenuk is confident that Hallmark Health's investment in state-of-the-art equipment and highly trained staff ensures quality of service, second to none.

Patients are referred for echocardiography for investigation of a number of common symptoms that can signal underlying heart disease, says Dr. Samenuk. These include unexplained shortness of breath, dizziness, palpitations, chest pains and heart murmurs.

Most exams take about 40 minutes and are done by placing a transducer - a probe that emits the high-frequency sound waves - on the chest wall. Sound-wave echoes are translated into images on a monitor for the sonographer and physician to evaluate.

Discovering clots and creating maps for surgery

Of the 40 or so patients that Dr. Samenuk and his team test each week, two or three undergo transesophageal echo (TEE) imaging. For this test, a thin flexible probe with a transducer at the tip is passed down the esophagus directly behind the heart, while the patient is under conscious sedation and feels nothing.

TEE imaging produces "unbelievably superb" pictures, says Dr. Samenuk. It is used in specialized cases, for example to look for clots inside the hearts of stroke patients and to provide detailed maps of the heart in patients about to undergo surgery.

Echocardiography has been used on patients since the late 1960s, but Dr. Samenuk says the technology has "really blossomed" in the last five years.

He is, naturally, an enthusiastic advocate of this safe, noninvasive, painless procedure that can be easily performed in many settings and provides "more information about the heart than any other test."

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