Information for families Cardiovascular Ultrasound (CVUS) Lab
What is cardiovascular ultrasound?
It is the use of sound waves to create images of the heart and blood vessels that allows us to diagnose and assess cardiac and vascular diseases. This non-invasive procedure uses a special ultrasound camera placed on top of the skin and emits safe sound waves into the body. The sound waves meet the structure in the body and reflect (or echo) back to the camera, which then processes them into images.
Watch a video of Shaun’s journey through the Echo Lab to learn what to expect if you are coming to SickKids for one of these tests: an echocardiogram (echo), a vascular ultrasound or a bicycle stress echo:
Cardiac imaging (a.k.a. echo)
An echocardiogram, or ‘echo’, is an ultrasound of the heart. From new-born babies to young adults, we perform echocardiograms to assess the structure, function and blood flow of the heart. We even image babies’ hearts before they are born!
Ultrasound image of a normal heart demonstrating the right atrium (RA), the right ventricle (RV), the left atrium (LA), and the left ventricle (LV).
Ultrasound image of a heart with hypoplastic left heart syndrome demonstrating the right atrium (RA), a dilated right ventricle (RV), the left atrium (LA), and a small left ventricle (LV).
Vascular imaging and assessment
Our lab also acquires ultrasound images of the body’s blood vessels to study the interactions between them and the pumping of the heart. This interaction, known as ventricular-arterial coupling, is a key determinant of cardiovascular performance. For example, adults with abnormal arterial stiffness and a mismatch between ventricular and arterial stiffness have been found to have a greatly increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Ultrasound image of the radial artery of the arm. Captured using high frequency ultrasound technique.
Bicycle stress echo
We operate a busy exercise stress echo program that is quite unique in the paediatricpopulation. We perform ultrasounds of the heart on children while on a supine bicycle. This allows us to compare how the heart works at rest and during exercise.
We will perform a heart scan using sound waves (echocardiogram) and assess the blood vessels using pressure sensors placed on the arm. The tests are very safe, and there are no known risks. The testing will take one to two hours.