Other Tests with COPD Part II: Echocardiogram

There are several diagnostic tests for COPD, and there are diagnostic tests for medical problems connected to COPD that help patients discover and treat those as well. My pulmonologist and I talked and she ordered two tests for me: a sleep study to determine if I had sleep apnea, which I’ve detailed already; and an echocardiogram, to determine if I have pulmonary hypertension.

The website for the Mayo Clinic describes pulmonary hypertension as “…a type of high blood pressure that affects the arteries in your lungs and the right side of your heart.” Its symptoms are very similar to COPD with exhaustion and shortness of breath. COPD can also be an underlying cause of it. We wanted to rule this out, as I have never smoked, never worked with chemicals, and don’t have the Alpha-1 deficiency. I also very recently started taking high blood pressure medication and have heart palpitations.

My echocardiogram was scheduled early in the morning after a sleep study the night before.

When I showed up in the cardiovascular clinic for it, I was awake and armed with coffee. It’s a great thing that the caffeine wouldn’t have an effect on the test.

When I was called, the technician led me to a darkened room and I laid on the testing table while she connected a couple of sensors to my chest. After the sleep study and its 2,657,932,894,043 sensors (that may be a slight exaggeration) I was an old pro at this. The technician then spread some of the ultrasound gel on my chest (at least it wasn’t Icy/Hot like my physical therapist uses) and used the magic ultrasound wand to capture the echo of sound waves in my heart.

Almost instantaneously the screen I was hooked to showed in outline what my heart looked like on the inside. It was an amazing moment.

I mean, I Could See The Inside Of My Heart!

I saw the valves work, spurting blood into the chambers. I could see my heart move, constricting and pulsing as it did so inside my chest. What proof that I was alive! I imagine one day there will be actual 3D pictures in ultrasounds instead of colorful squiggly lines, but no matter. It was beautiful.

I mentioned such to the tech, but she just grunted. I guess if you’ve seen one heart you’ve seen them all.

But this was MY heart. My big, beautiful heart that’s kept beating through thick and thin, through joy and sadness. From my bright and shiny girlhood through now, the autumn of my life.

I felt like we were pals. Like I wanted to buy it a drink and talk about old times.

The tech grunted again, pulling me out of my reverie. She wanted me to roll over so she could take a different picture. Like a well trained dog, I did, and she went on with the test.

It was a relatively short time for a test, only 20 to 30 minutes, where she captured images of the blood flow, the measurements of the chambers and the thickness of the heart wall, and the movements of the valves. There was a lot of information packed in those squiggly lines. When she was through I cleaned the ultrasound goop off, got dressed, and looked a last time at the final image frozen on the screen. I silently said good-bye and thank you to my heart, and left.

The results showed that I did not have anything to indicate pulmonary hypertension, thank goodness. If you are experiencing symptoms, it is a good idea to talk your concerns over with your doctor. There are several websites that discuss its symptoms and causes, including the Mayo Clinic as mentioned above, and COPD.net.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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