A Sibley sonographer takes specialized pictures of a child’s heart – known as a cardiac ultrasound or echocardiogram – which are made using sound waves. The echocardiogram provides clear images of the structures of the heart that can reveal the cause of extra heart sounds or problems with connections and blood flow.
“With children, we cannot assume that the child’s heart structure is normal. We take multiple images to assess the anatomy and function of the heart,” said Laurie Clark, Manager of Clinical Operations – Sonography, at Sibley Heart Center Cardiology. “We’re assessing patients with chest pain or fainting episodes and for murmurs that doctors have heard.”
Sibley sonographers also follow kids with congenital heart disease (CHD). They perform echocardiograms to monitor patients who have had a surgical repair on their hearts or to determine if they will need intervention in the future. The frequency of visits depends on the complexity of the defect.
The main thing for parents to know about an echocardiogram is that it doesn’t hurt. However, because most kids have experienced being immunized at other physicians’ offices, they can be anxious when getting this test. The sonographer sometimes needs a parent’s help to calm and quiet an uncooperative or frightened patient.
“The echo takes about 20-30 minutes in a darkened room, and we need the child to stay fairly quiet and still while we conduct the study,” Laurie said. “Parents can help by keeping their child calm and engaged in other things, like watching a movie or having a bottle or snack for younger kids.”
After the echo is complete, a physician reviews the study and gives parents results the same day.
“The sonographers at Sibley are excellent at what they do, and we enjoy helping patients and building a rapport with the kids we see over time,” Laurie said. “It’s a rewarding experience to help doctors diagnose these conditions, and we get to see some very interesting things. It’s always amazing to see a sick child who gets surgery to fix a heart defect growing and thriving after their intervention.”
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For more information about Sibley Heart Center Cardiology and our pediatric cardiology specialists, click here.