Echocardiography should be viewed as a technique that can be very useful in certain specific situations. It is important for the clinician to know which patients can profit most from this examination. Because the technique is apparently harmless, there will be an obvious tendency to use echocardiography to screen all patients with heart disease or suspected heart disease. Such an approach would be improper. The referring physician should have a specific reason for obtaining each examination. The cost of the test is not insignificant, and with the development of newer, more expensive echocardiographic equipment, future costs will probably be even higher. Thus, indiscriminate use of any diagnostic examination, including echocardiography, should be avoided. The echocardiographic examination should also be considered as evolving. Improvements are constantly being made, and the current examination is certainly not perfected. There are many technical details involved in doing this examination. This fact is the basis for the problem in training people to provide echocardiographic services. Although the examination may be reasonably harmless and painless for the patient, the technique is by no means simple. Because of the intricacies of the examination, the subtleties of the interpretation, and the knowledge explosion in the field, an increasing amount of training and experience is necessary to perform and interpret echocardiograms. Despite its many problems and limitations, the popularity of echocardiography testifies to the fact that this tool can be extremely helpful in many patients. This examination can provide information which is most difficult to obtain in any other manner. Unlike many other noninvasive cardiologic tests that provide graphic recordings of physical findings, echocardiography gives information that cannot be obtained at the bedside. In some respects, the use of ultrasound to examine the heart is more natural than any other imaging technique that relies on the interpretation of radiographic or isotopic shadows or silhouettes. Echocardiography is not dissimilar to sonar used by several animals, such as bats and dolphins. Anyone who has seen these animals use their sonar must be impressed with the fact that ultrasound can be very effective in sensing one's environment. Although we will probably never approach the skill with which these animals use ultrasound, there will undoubtedly be important improvements and advances in echocardiographic technology. Thus, from all indications, echocardiography should play an increasingly important role as a diagnostic tool in cardiology.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine