Echocardiogram Ultrasounds: Bulk Billed for Melbourne

by | Mar 7, 2024 | General Health, Heart Health | 0 comments

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Echocardiograms can be life savers.

The painless and non-invasive heart ultrasounds allow doctors to diagnose cardiovascular conditions accurately before things get serious.

What’s more, the procedure is bulk-billed in Melbourne. How good is that?

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Also known as a cardiac ultrasound, an echocardiogram bounces, or echoes, sound waves off your heart and its valves to produce detailed images. No radiation is involved – it’s perfectly safe.

A specially trained cardiologist such as myself then analyses these images and provides a detailed report of potential issues, if any.

Your GP and medical team are then equipped to plan the best course of preventative care and monitor the treatment progress.

Let’s answer some common questions.

Why Your GP May Order You an Echocardiogram

GPs love echocardiograms. The ultrasound analysis of your heart gives them detailed insights into why you may be experiencing cardiac-related symptoms.

human heart design

These include:

  • Chest pains
  • Blood pressure irregularities
  • Shortness of breath
  • Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
  • Swollen legs
  • Heart murmurs

Your GP may also order an echocardiogram for non-symptomatic reasons, such as monitoring the treatment of a pre-existing condition, checking on surgical outcomes, or preparing for surgery.

People from all walks of life may occasionally require an echocardiogram, yet the main high-risk groups for heart problems are often those who:

  • suffer from obesity;
  • are over 45 years old, especially those who have a sedentary lifestyle;
  • smoke;
  • have a family history of heart disease, stroke, or diabetes, and
  • suffer from conditions including high blood pressure and hypothyroidism.

What Conditions Can Doctors Diagnose from an Echocardiogram?

The image produced by a heart ultrasound instantly gives us a clear view of your heart’s shape, valves, and blood vessels.

We can learn a lot, including whether there’s any heart muscle damage, problems with valves, changes to heart size, and the heart’s ability to pump blood properly.

Your GP or specialist is then in an ideal position to diagnose a wide range of cardiovascular conditions. Here are a handful of examples.

Heart attacks

An echocardiogram can’t predict a heart attack, yet it will show the resultant damage if you’ve had one. The test picks up damage to your heart’s wall and blood flow abnormalities.

Your GP or cardiologist can then offer a range of treatments and advice to help prevent further heart attacks.

Thrombosis (blood clots)

Blood clots in the heart can lead to a stroke or mini-stroke (also known as a transient ischemic attack).

An echocardiogram can detect these clots, and as such, a GP may order the procedure if someone has neurological symptoms or has a funny turn where they may feel a little strange, ill, or often dizzy.

Atrial fibrillation

An ultrasound can detect rhythmic disturbances in heart function to assist in diagnosing atrial fibrillation, the most commonly diagnosed arrhythmia.

An echocardiogram assists in diagnosis by looking for irregularities in the heart’s walls and determining how well the valves function.

Pulmonary hypertension

Pulmonary hypertension is difficult to detect with a physical examination alone. Ultrasounds let us know how well blood is flowing through your heart and if there are any warning signs.

Heart valve disease

When a doctor hears a heart murmur, they’ll request an echocardiogram to look for any heart valve disease.

The test is helpful in creating well-defined images of your heart’s chambers and valves, highlighting any abnormalities.

Heart failure

Echocardiograms can diagnose heart failure and measure how effectively your heart pumps blood, aiding in guiding treatment options.

What Happens During an Echocardiogram?

Taking approximately 30 minutes, an echocardiogram is a straightforward procedure.

female sonographer with female patient

When you arrive at the clinic, a female sonographer will collect you from our waiting space, walk you to your private consult room, and ask you to undress to the waist.

Once you’re comfortable, she’ll get you to sit on the examination bed and gently attach three electrodes to your chest. You’ll then lie on your side and relax.

The sonographer will darken the room to see the ultrasound images better.

She’ll apply a water-based gel and move a small transducer device over your chest. This is the same imaging procedure used to monitor in-utero babies for pregnant people.

She may occasionally ask you to briefly hold your breath or move slightly to improve imaging quality.

Once all done, she’ll hand you some tissues to wipe away any excess gel and let you get dressed. You can then go about your day.

We’ll forward your results to your GP or specialist, who’ll contact you within a week to let you know the next steps, if any.

How to Prepare for Your Appointment and What to Bring

No preparation is required; you can eat and drink what you want beforehand.

Please bring to your echo appointment:

  • Your referral letter or form from your GP. We accept all referral forms.
  • A list of current medications and any recent imaging.
  • Your Medicare card.

We usually have back-to-back bookings, so please arrive 5-10 minutes early.

You’re welcome to have an adult friend or family member accompany you.

Echocardiograms at Doctors of South Melbourne

I oversee heart ultrasounds, which are now offered at Doctors of South Melbourne in partnership with Vic Heart Health.

Working offsite, I analyse your ultrasound results and provide a report to your GP.

echocardiogram

This service will be bulk billed for patients with Medicare. The cost is $250 without Medicare.

To access an echocardiogram, you’ll need a referral from one of the GPs practising at the South Melbourne clinic or from your usual doctor.

You can make an echocardiogram appointment online or call us on (03) 8579 6838.


Dr Brendan Flaim

Dr Brendan Flaim is a cardiologist specialising in ultrasound imaging, including stress echocardiography.

Brendan studied medicine at the University of Melbourne and undertook cardiology training at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, including a Fellowship in Echocardiography.

Brendan also provides stress testing at St Vincent’s Private Hospital and offers imaging support to cardiologists performing structural heart and rhythm treatment procedures.

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