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Getting the big picture on patients’ heart health: WCH cardiac sonographers support patients, keep up with professional development

September 28, 2015

Nervous about an upcoming echo appointment at Women’s College Hospital (WCH)?  Don’t be – you’re in good hands with the hospital’s echocardiography technologists (cardiac sonographers).

Echocardiography – also known simply as a 2D-echo or an ultrasound of the heart or an echo Doppler – is a procedure that involves capturing images of the heart at various angles. By taking a closer look at the heart in this way, the care team can observe how the heart is functioning and identify any possible conditions. As well, from measurements collected during an echo, the sonographer can calculate the volume of blood the heart ejects when it pumps, the volume of blood that’s left over and other important data.

Ultimately, performing an echo really allows the care team to diagnose conditions and monitor cardiac patients.

At WCH, patients coming in for an echo will meet Ella Kisselman, Shirley Li or Heatherlyn Giglio Rankin. These three cardiac sonographers ensure that patients comfortable throughout the procedure.

“I have great satisfaction in what I do and I’m proud that I’m really able to help people using my experience and knowledge,” says Kisselman, who has been a cardiac sonographer for over 20 years. “Being able to meet new people every day is the best part of the job.”

For a standard echo, the patient will need to lie down on a bed for about 30 minutes. The sonographer will attach ECG electrodes to the patient’s chest so that the heart’s electrical activity can be monitored. During the appointment, the sonographer will slide a transducer (which looks like a small paddle) on the patient’s chest. The transducer is attached to a computer monitor that displays images of the patient’s heart. During the procedure, the patient shouldn’t feel any discomfort.

Cardiac sonographers also perform stress echocardiograms, which is a combination an echo and treadmill test. The patient will be asked to walk on a treadmill – and progressively increase speed and incline. At certain points – typically, the exercise intervals are about three minutes long – the patient will lie down so that the songorapher can take images of the heart. During each appointment, the patient’s blood pressure and heart beat are continually monitored.

Following the appointment, the sonographer will compile a preliminary report that contains the numerous images of the heart and calculations related to blood flow. This report is reviewed with the same day by a cardiologist, who will follow-up with the patient. Every patient can feel reassured by knowing that physicians have the complete picture of his or her cardiac health status.

Understandably, certain aspects the cardiac sonographer’s job have evolved with advancements in technology.

“The technology is always new and constantly changing,” explains Li.  “It’s interesting work – we’re always learning.”

“We’re constantly handling new cases and learning about new pathologies. In this job, you’ll never be bored, you’ll always be expanding and advancing your knowledge,” adds Giglio Rankin.

By performing each echo proficiently, while keeping current with new technologies and best practice guidelines, WCH’s cardiac sonographers get the picture when it comes to managing heart health.

To learn more about WCH’s Cardiology Clinic & Lab, visit the webpage.

Echocardiography technologists
Heatherlyn Giglio Rankin, Shirley Li and Ella Kisselman
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