The results of your echocardiogram can show your doctor if your heart is enlarged. This condition is known as cardiomegaly. Enlargement can be a result of various diseases, hypertension or valve damage. Cardiomegaly can be treated in several ways. One way is to treat the underlying disease. Another method is to try various medications such as diuretics, beta blockers or ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors. In some cases, enlargement of the heart must be surgically corrected.
An echocardiogram also measures the ability of your heart to pump. "Ejection fraction" is a term used to describe the heart's strength in pumping blood out of a ventricle during each heartbeat. "Cardiac output" is the measurement of the volume of blood that is pumped in one minute. When the heart does not have adequate pumping strength, heart failure can be a serious risk.
The results of an echocardiogram can give your physician an idea of any heart damage that may be present. The test measures to see if all the parts of the heart are functioning properly. If a portion of the heart is not moving as it should, it can be an indication of coronary artery disease, oxygen reduction from a previous heart attack or other various health conditions. If heart damage is discovered, it can be addressed with one or more of the following interventions: surgery, lifestyle changes and medications.
The heart's valves open and close during the process of pumping blood. An echocardiogram can show problems with valves that may not be opening wide enough or not closing completely. Valves that don't open or close properly can overwork the heart and reduce blood flow, which in turn reduces the amount of oxygen reaching the heart. This can weaken the heart muscle. Conditions involving heart valves often require surgical correction.
Some individuals are born with structural heart problems or "congenital defects" of the heart. These defects can be detected by an echocardiogram. These defects can involve the valves, chambers or vessels of the heart. Heart defects can be mild and cause only minor symptoms such as occasional slight disturbances in rhythm. On the other hand, some structural problems are life threatening and require surgery, medication and lifestyle modification.