Which Illnesses Can Be Diagnosed with Cardiac Sonography?
One of the health care careers growing faster than almost any other is medical sonography. Technicians who perform diagnostic ultrasounds are in high demand and the field is growing at an astonishing rate of 17 percent. It only takes an associate degree to get into this field and to be able to start earning up to $64,000 a year or more.
Sonographers can specialize too, and the need for those trained in cardiovascular sonography is great. In this career you could be helping physicians figure out what illnesses patients have so they can be treated accordingly. Here are some of the health problems that a cardiac ultrasound, or echocardiogram, can detect and diagnose:
Cardiovascular Sonography Can Detect Heart Damage Due to High Blood Pressure
Almost half of all adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure, a condition that can have very serious health consequences. Also known as hypertension, this occurs when the force of the blood on the blood vessels it is traveling through is consistently too high. Hypertension is known as a silent killer because it has no symptoms but can cause real damage and harm, including heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease, and more.
High blood pressure can also cause changes to the size and thickness of the heart, and this can be detected by a cardiac ultrasound. It is important that this is measured by sonographers so that physicians can determine the extent of damage caused by hypertension and what treatment is necessary. The sonographer’s work also helps the doctor monitor a patient’s treatment to decide if it is working or needs to be changed.
A Cardiac Ultrasound Can Identify Damage from a Heart Attack
A heart attack is when blood flow to the heart stops or is severely restricted. This life-threatening event can be very scary and very serious. For those who survive a heart attack, there can be complications that need to be addressed. The role of the sonographer is important for heart attack survivors. They use ultrasound to image the patient’s heart and look for damage caused by the heart attack.
After a heart attack, some of the muscles of the heart may be weakened. This can be problematic if they move too slowly or too weakly, and a sonogram can detect and help physicians see the damage. It can help lead to better treatments for the patient or even the diagnosis of another condition, like coronary heart disease, or possibly a contributing cause of the heart attack that can be addressed to prevent future incidents.
Cardiac Sonography Finds Heart Defects
Defects in the heart are typically congenital, which means a person is born with the defect or damage. This can be very serious and life-threatening or mild and may not cause symptoms. Examples of heart defects include valves in the heart that don’t operate correctly or leak blood, thickened heart valves, a hole between two of the heart’s chambers, a hole in the aorta, or a narrow aorta, the main blood vessel taking blood to the rest of the body, among many others.
An infant or child may need an echocardiogram to diagnose heart defects. The resulting image that the sonographer produces helps the physicians and specialists determine what the defect is, where it is in the heart, how severe it is, and how it can be treated if necessary. The ultrasound is also important for monitoring the defect, as some change over time, or monitoring the effects of treatment to determine if it has been successful.
Cardiac Ultrasounds Detect Problems with Heart Valves
The heart includes four different valves, each of which is essential for normal functioning of the heart and good circulation. They act like gates, opening and closing to let blood in or out of the various chambers of the heart. They also allow blood to come into the heart and to be released from the heart to be circulated throughout the body.
Some of the valve issues you may detect by performing an echocardiogram include regurgitation, when blood moves backwards through the valves, stenosis, when the valves of the heart are too narrow, weakened or damaged valves, or tumors or other types of growths on or around the valves. Because of how ultrasound works, you can not only create a picture of the heart and its valves, but you can also see the valves moving. This really helps physicians determine if a person’s heart and valves are healthy or faulty.
Cardiac Sonography is used to Determine Pumping Strength of the Heart
The strength of the heart in pumping blood out to the rest of the body is crucial to overall health. If the heart does not pump well enough it can cause serious problems, including congestive heart failure. A sonographer has an important role to play in helping doctors determine how well a patient’s heart is pumping. The technician can use the echocardiogram to measure the ejection fraction and cardiac output, the percentage of blood pumped out of one of the heart’s chambers and the volume the entire heart pumps in one minute.
A Career in Cardiovascular Sonography
If you get the right training, you could be the professional who uses ultrasound to help diagnose all of these important heart health issues. With an associate’s degree in cardiovascular sonography, you could land a competitive position with a great salary, either at a hospital, physician’s office, or diagnostic laboratory.
All it takes to get into this exciting and rewarding career is a two-year degree with hands-on training. Look for a program that is accredited and that will prepare you to become certified as a medical or cardiac sonographer. Most programs will offer flexible courses so you can study and learn around work and family responsibilities. In just about two years, thanks to a cardiovascular sonography program, you could land a lucrative position working with patients and physicians and making a real difference.