There are a lot of things that an echocardiogram can tell us. Echocardiograms can tell us how healthy your heart valves are. They can tell us how well your heart is pumping. Echocardiograms can even tell us what the pressures are inside each of the chambers of your heart.
Can An Echocardiogram Detect Blocked Arteries?
But there are some things that an echocardiogram cannot tell us. And one of those things that an echo is unable to tell us is whether or not you have clogged arteries, or blockages. There are other medical exams that are excellent at detecting clogged arteries, but echocardiography just isn’t one of them.
Keep reading to find out what those things are.
Why Can’t Echocardiograms Show Blockages?
Generally speaking, the coronary arteries are just too small to see on an echocardiogram. Ultrasound technology has improved significantly over the years. So much so that we are able to visualize heart structures that we’ve never really been able to see before. This, combined with 3D ultrasound technology and image enhancing agents, such as Definity, I wouldn’t be surprised if we’ll soon be able to better visualize coronary arteries and better detect blockages.
But for now, the technology just isn’t there to detect blocked arteries.
With that said however, there are instances when we are able to see just the very origin of the coronary artery. But this tiny section that we can see is not where blockages occur, nor is it something that we are able to see on everyone.
Can You See Stents On An Echocardiogram?
Unfortunately, no. Stents cannot be visualized on an echocardiogram. However, the echo technician may occasionally see artifact or shaddowing that’s created by the stent. But typically speaking, no, you cannot see stents on an echocardiogram.
What Can You See On An Echocardiogram?
Like I mentioned earlier, there are many things that can be seen on an ultrasound of your heart, or echocardiogram. One of the most prominent things that you’ll see on your echo are your heart valves.
Heart valves are typically the first thing my patients notice and ask me about. That’s becasue they are quite prominent in the first few images that are taken and they move a lot. Many people claim they look like hands clapping.
The other thing thats clearly seen on an echocardiogram are the heart chambers. On an echo, heart chambers will be the large black voids on the screen. That’s because the chambers are where the blood is contained, and blood does not reflect sound waves. So the image in those areas are black.
Finally, the other feature you’ll be able to see on an echocardiogram is the heart muscle. The heart muscle will be easy to see because it is what does the pumping, or squeezing. You’ll be able to easily see the muscle squeezing time and time again throughout the exam.
Here's another article I wrote explaining in detail all of the things you can expect during an echocardiogram procedure.
Whether or not an echocardiogram can see blockages is one of the most common questions I receive as an echocardiography technician. And I can understand why. It’s important to know if your coronary arteries are clogged or not. Unfortunately, echocardiography is not the imaging modality to see arteries.
Instead, there are much better exams available that can clearly see the arteries and if they are clogged or not. And often times, it’s during these same exams that the doctors will place a stent in the event that the artery is blocked.
If you have any questions regarding your echo, please don’t hesitate to reach out and ask.