Essentials of echocardiography (Proceedings)
Aug 01, 2011
CVC IN KANSAS CITY PROCEEDINGS
Echocardiography has emerged as the most valuable non-invasive tool for evaluation of cardiac structure, function, blood flow patterns, and has greatly diminished the need for diagnostic cardiac catheterizations and angiocardiography in many cases. Echocardiography is one tool for evaluation of the cardiac patient, but should be used in conjunction with other diagnostic tests including thoracic radiography and electrocardiography for a global assessment of the patient.
There have been rapid and significant advances in the technology of ultrasound machines. Rapid frame rates are essential to image the dynamic changes of the heart during the cardiac cycle. Higher MHz transducers have higher frame rates, greater image resolution, but less tissue penetration. Lower MHz probes offer greater tissue penetration and stronger Doppler properties with higher maximal velocity measurements. Cats and small dogs are most often imaged with > 7 MHz transducer, medium dogs with a 5 MHz probe, and large dogs with 3-4 MHz transducer. Newer machines offer digital acquisition of still frames and real-time loops, and can be stored on PACS servers. Depth controls are adjusted until the cardiac image fills the field. Time gain compensation (TGC) controls the gain at specific depths, and often the near field is adjusted to have less gain than the far field. Compression adjusts the dynamic range of gray scale, so increased compression allows for more gray scale from weaker echoes, and less compression results in a higher contrast image. Often echocardiographic images are adjusted for less compression for better delineation of the cardiac structures from the blood pool. Persistence should be adjusted to zero or minimal since averaging several frames results in a blurred real time effect. Sector width can be adjusted, and the narrower the sector, the higher frame rate and greater the resolution. Frame rates of 15-30 frames per second are adequate for the appearance of real-time motion in most small animals.
Due to the reflection of sound waves from lungs, there are limited windows for adequate acoustic penetration. It is recommended to image from beneath the animal while it is in lateral recumbency, since there is a larger and better quality acoustic window. Specialized ultrasound tables are commercially available or can be constructed with a cut-out to image from beneath the animal. Shaving the hair at the left and right precordial transducer locations may improve image quality but is usually not necessary. The hair should be wet and parted to expose skin at the transducer placement and liberal and repeat applications of ultrasonic gel to the transducer is necessary.An ordered approach to echocardiography is important. Two dimensional (2D) echocardiography is the first modality used to examine the structure and function of the heart. There are standard echocardiographic views that are obtained from the right and left thorax to evaluate cardiac structure and function and are necessary for standardization of cardiac measurements.(1) The right parasternal window is the first location to image, and is located between the fourth and sixth intercostal spaces. Palpation of the area of the strongest apical beat typically identifies the most optimal position to image from. The probe is positioned at the level of the costo-chondral junction or slightly closer to the sternum. The right parasternal long axis 4-chamber view is the first to be obtained (Figure 1). The probe is aligned parallel to the long axis of the left ventricle, with the transducer mark pointed towards the cervical vertebrae (towards the head). The left and right ventricles, right and left atria, and atrioventricular valves are examined. Assessment of overall left and right heart size and morphology of the atrioventricular valves and chordae tendinae structure can be made. Mitral valve prolapse or flail may be identified using this view (Figure 2). The right parasternal long axis left ventricular outflow tract view is then obtained by slightly rotating the probe in the cranial direction (Figure 3). This view is essential for evaluation of the aorta, aortic cusps, interventricular septum, and the anterior mitral valve movement in systole. Subaortic stenosis, systolic anterior motion of the mitral valve, ventricular septal defects, aortic valve abnormalities, and heart base tumors are well visualized in this view.
The second thoracic acoustic window is the left apical (caudal) parasternal window, which is located between the left 5th and 7th intercostal spaces adjacent to the sternum. The transducer is aligned parallel to the long axis of the heart with transducer marker directed cranially. The left apical 4-chamber view is obtained, which depicts the heart "upside-down" with the apex closest to the transducer (Figure 13). The mitral and tricuspid valves can be carefully inspected, and this position allows excellent alignment for mitral inflow Doppler studies as well as color flow and Doppler assessment of atrioventricular valve insufficiencies. By slightly rotating the transducer, the left apical 5-chamber view is then obtained, which visualizes the left ventricular outflow tract and aorta in addition to the left and right chambers of the heart (Figure 14). This view is essential for color flow and Doppler evaluation of the left ventricular outflow tract and aorta since the beam is aligned parallel to blood being ejected out the aorta.