What Are the Different Uses for a Bubble Echocardiogram?

If a cardiologist suspects heart problems based on a exam, a bubble echocardiogram may be requested to identify the defect.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 22 August 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A doctor can request a bubble echocardiogram to check for abnormal flows of blood through and around the heart. This procedure can allow a cardiologist to identify a heart defect that might cause complications later in life. If a patient has a condition that shows up on bubble echocardiography, the doctor can perform an evaluation to determine whether surgery and other treatments are necessary to address the issue.

In a bubble echocardiogram, an ultrasound technician visualizes the heart with the use of ultrasound. This provides a real-time display of the heartbeat and the movement of fluid through the heart. The technician injects a saline solution that contains tiny suspended air bubbles, which are created by agitating the solution just before injecting it. These bubbles can be seen on the ultrasound as they move through the heart, allowing the technician to look for blood that flows in an unusual pattern or direction.

Normally, blood should not pass directly between the left and right sides of the heart. A bubble echocardiogram can reveal that blood is passing through a defect such as a patent foramen ovale (PFO) or atrial septal defect (ASD), a hole in the heart. These defects can create problems, such as exposing the patient to the risk of a stroke from a blood clot and forcing the patient's heart to work harder to keep blood in circulation.

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Doctors might consider a bubble echocardiogram if a patient has symptoms that are indicative of a problem with the heart, to determine whether a problem is present and to learn more about it. This might occur at a very young age, because very young children who have heart defects are often easy to spot in routine diagnostic screening. They might be short of breath or could have abnormal heart sounds suggestive of a defect in the structure of the heart. The test can reveal a defect and provide information about its severity.

Patients and family members should not panic if a doctor asks for a bubble echocardiogram. Although doctors do not order this test unless they think there is something wrong, the patient might not have a heart condition or might have a mild condition that does not require any additional action. Patients who have concerns about the outcome of the test can discuss their concerns before the test. The doctor can offer more information about what the test will look for and what kinds of treatment options might be available if the patient needs treatment.

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Discuss this Article

anon292787
Post 4

I'm terrified of having the bubble echo! Why? I had a hole on my heart repaired in 1981 and never had problems except the skipping of beats but still I wish they would post why it's needed and what they're looking for so it doesn't sound so terrifying.

irontoenail
Post 3

My mother just got put into the hospital because she's been having heart palpatations. She didn't really think there was anything wrong, but they found a shadow on one of the tests, so they have to figure out what is the matter with her.

I think one of the tests they did was a normal echocardiogram, but one of them mentioned doing a bubble study as well.

I don't think they really know what's going on, and I know all they can do right now is try to eliminate possibilities but it is quite scary to be several days into this and not have any solid answers.

I hope almost hope they find something wrong with one of these tests, because at least then we can try to do something about it.

pastanaga
Post 2

@Mor - It makes me think of the Outlander series, where a family from around our time is living in the past, back before they had things like bubble echocardiograms. They realize that one of their children probably has this condition, the hole in the heart, and she keeps getting sicker and sicker. So they have to decide whether they should go back to the future so that she can have the benefits of modern technology, including the echocardiogram with bubbles, or not.

It really makes you think about how very sad it must have been, even a hundred years ago, before they had the technology to help children with this condition. Parents must have been in agony, watching their children slowly get sicker, without knowing what is wrong, or how to help.

Mor
Post 1

It's absolutely right that you shouldn't panic if the doctor orders this kind of test for your child.

My little sister was born with a hole in her heart, something they must have seen through an echocardiogram test. In fact, a lot of people are, because it's a natural condition when you're in the womb, but with some people it takes longer to close than others, and with some people they need surgery to close it.

My sister only had to wait a few days before the heart closed itself up and she was fine from then on.

I know you'll probably panic anyway if you think something might be wrong, but really, in this case it's not as bad as it sounds.

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