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How is a Pediatric Echocardiogram performed?

The Echocardiogram is a study with which the function of the heart and its valves can be assessed. It is very useful when it comes to children because it provides very valuable information, either to make a diagnosis or to monitor patients who are already known to have a heart problem.

What is an Echocardiogram?

It is a study carried out by a Specialist with the help of an Ultrasound Machine (see figure 1) in which high-frequency sound waves (Ultrasound) are used on the body, in this case specifically on the heart. It is used to study its form and function.

With the Echocardiogram cardiac anatomy can be assessed, that is, the parts of the heart, their correct location and the connection of its parts; heart valves and their proper functioning, as well as cardiac contraction and its effectiveness.

The tissues surrounding the heart, such as the pericardium, can also be assessed and whether there is thickening or excess fluid in it. In addition, it provides data on circulation and pulmonary pressures.

Figure 1. Ultrasound machine

What can the Echocardiogram detect?

It is indicated for patients born with Congenital heart disease, that is, those children who, while in utero, experience errors during the formation of the heart. It is also used in patients with acquired heart diseaseeither secondary to an infection or due to systemic diseases that not only affect the heart but also other organs.

We must remember that the heart works like a pump that expels blood to the body and lungs. More than 55% of the blood that reaches it must be expelled with each heartbeat. If the heart pumps less when it contracts, the function is considered to be diminished.

The Signs and symptoms that may indicate possible Heart Disease in the child are:

  • Cyanosis or purple discoloration of the lips and nails
  • Inadequate weight gain
  • Presence of heart murmur
  • Loss of knowledge
  • Tiredness or fatigue with feeding if it is an infant or with daily activities if it is an older child
  • Arterial hypertension
  • Decreased or absent pulses in the lower limbs

How is it carried out in the case of children?

It is performed in the office, on an outpatient basis.. It can be done on children, pregnant women or adults without any problem, since no radiation is emitted.

Although no preparation is required, when it comes to children must always be accompanied. On some occasions, when the child is very irritable, the mother is asked to prevent him from having slept in the previous 4 or 6 hours so that he sleeps during the examination or she may also be asked to feed him in the minutes before or during the study so that the minor is calm. On very rare occasions, children require sedation to perform the Echocardiogram.

The patient must lie on a stretcher, without clothing from the waist up, and electrodes are placed to monitor the heart rhythm during the study.. Subsequently, a gel is applied to the anterior region of the chest and with a transducer (see Figure 2), a little pressure is applied. This device is what sends sound waves (echoes) to a computer that converts them into images that are seen on the computer screen.

It lasts 30 to 40 minutes depending on the patient’s good behavior. Generally, in minors it can take longer because they move, or sometimes, the little ones cry.

The advantages of Echocardiogram are that it is performed non-invasively, painlessly and in a short time. Very valuable information is obtained, either to make a diagnosis or in the follow-up of patients who are already known to have a cardiac problem. It is very important to point out that making the timely diagnosis of Heart Disease can save the child’s life.

Figure 2. Transducer