Echocardiography Technologist  What They Do

Just the Facts


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dotObviously the heart needs extra special care. An echocardiography technologist uses ultrasound to search our hearts to uncover any potential problems. Professionals in this field may have alternate job titles, such as echocardiographer or sonographer.

dotThe heart is the most important muscle in the body. Advanced instruments have been developed to monitor its valves, chambers and muscle contractions or spasms. Echocardiography technologists operate this vital machinery. They notice potential problems and share their findings with physicians.

Margaret Corbett works in a busy clinic. She says echocardiographers are like detectives. They have to figure out what's causing the problem with someone's heart.

They run a hand-held device known as a transducer over the patient's body. Moving images of the heart, its chambers, valves and muscle contractions appear on a television screen and are recorded on videotape. This procedure is called an echocardiogram, or echo for short. It uses Doppler and ultrasound technology.

dotYou may have heard the term Doppler on the news. Meteorologists use it to pinpoint thunderstorms, snowstorms and other weather conditions. Echocardiographers use it to measure blood flow. Doppler also makes sounds, so you can actually hear the heart.

Echoes show how well the patient's heart is working. They show how fast and in which direction the blood is flowing, or whether there are any blockages. Echocardiographers study these images and write reports. They work under the supervision of a doctor. The doctor is the one who advises the patient.

dotTechnologists must be able to spot normal and abnormal findings. They must know anatomy, pathology and physiology. A technologist also needs to know how the ultrasound and Doppler machines work. That's so they can troubleshoot and get quality diagnostic pictures of the heart.

dotThese technologists must be expert communicators. They frequently talk to patients as well as the doctors. Technologists may also contribute to and maintain patients' medical records. They educate other medical staff and the public about echoes as well.

Many patients are debilitated or critically ill. That means some lifting or assisting of patients may be required. Examinations may occasionally be performed at the patient's bedside. Some instruments are easily moved, but the duplex scanner, for instance, is large and heavy.

Echocardiography technologists work in hospitals, clinics and in research labs. Occasionally, they will travel to patients' homes. Full-time technologists generally work a five-day, 40-hour week.

dotThis job requires use of the senses of hearing and sight. People with special needs in these areas may therefore find that this field may not be ideal for them.

At a Glance

Use ultrasound to find problems with the heart

  • You have to be a good communicator
  • With experience, you can advance to chief technologist or technical director
  • A few specialized training programs are available


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