Echocardiogram - children

What is an Echocardiogram For Children?

An echocardiogram is a non-invasive test that uses sound waves to create a moving image of the heart. This imaging test is a great tool for detecting a wide range of heart conditions and structural problems. An echocardiogram for children is a safe and effective way to detect heart problems in kids.

Preparation for an Echocardiogram

The preparation for an echocardiogram for children is typically not extensive. The patient may need to change into a hospital gown, take off earrings and any other jewelry, and remove all clothes below the chest prior to the test. Some children may need to have a fasting period before the test, though this isn’t always required. It is important that the patient is comfortable throughout the procedure, so a parent or another guardian may be present to help keep the patient settled.

The Procedure For An Echocardiogram

The procedure for an echocardiogram for children is fairly simple. The patient will lie on an exam table and will have a diagnostic device, or transducer, placed on the chest. The transducer will send out sound waves while images of the heart are recorded. These images will show the size, shape, and movement of the heart. The test typically takes about thirty minutes.

Types Of Echocardiogram

There are several types of echos that doctors can utilize when examining a child’s heart. Some of the most common types of echos include:

  • Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE): This type of ultrasound is the most common way to examine the heart. It provides images of size, shape, and movement.
  • Stress echocardiogram: This type of ultrasound is used when a patient is feeling symptoms from a possible underlying heart condition. It is useful for examining how the heart functions during physical activity.
  • Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE): This type of ultrasound is done when a doctor wants to get clearer images of the heart. It is done by inserting a transducer down the patient’s throat. This type of echocardiogram is more invasive and is rarely necessary for children.

Risks Of An Echocardiogram

An echocardiogram for children is a safe procedure. The greatest risk is discomfort due to the transducer being pressed against the skin. There is also a very slight risk of infection, though this is highly unlikely. Generally, the risks are minimal and the benefits far outweigh any potential risks.

Why Would A Child Need An Echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram can be useful for detecting a variety of heart conditions and structural defects. Some of the situations in which an echocardiogram for children may be recommended are:

  • Suspected congenital heart disease
  • Palpitations or abnormal heart rhythms
  • Suspected valve problems
  • Suspected obstruction in the heart or its blood vessels
  • Prior to heart surgery
  • Trouble breathing

When Should An Echocardiogram Be Performed?

An echocardiogram for children may be recommended if the doctor suspects an underlying heart condition or if the child’s symptoms suggest that a structural problem may be present. Typically, the earlier a condition is discovered, the better the prognosis is for the child. An echocardiogram may be recommended as a preventative measure or as part of a workup of existing conditions.