Monitoring the Heart With Doppler Techniques
Career Path : Health and Technology
Throw a stone into a serene lake, and you will see little rings of water form around the spot where the stone dropped beneath the surface. Keep watching, and those circles will get larger, moving away from the center, and slowly dying out. You may ask yourself what this has to do with cardiovascular healthcare. The answer is that the circular waves are a symbolic visual representation of what is known in wave theory as the Doppler effect, and the techniques we have developed based on this effect are used in cardiac screening.
The Doppler effect measures frequencies, or moving waves, emitted from a moving object and from the point of view of a stable observer, or conversely, from a still object to a moving observer. What is being measured is not the frequency of an individual wave, but rather the changes in frequency with each successive wave as the object moves closer or farther from the observer. It works with sounds and light, not to mention liquids like the lake and the stone example. Imagine an ambulance with its siren blaring and its high beams on rushing towards, then past you. The nature of both the sound of the siren and the visibility of the high beams changes as the ambulance approaches and recedes. This change is the Doppler effect.
When it comes to health and technology today, we use the Doppler technique for echocardiograms. Echocardiograms use ultrasound technology to examine the heart by generating 2D slices of the heart, which are images taken at the heart’s cross section. Along with the information provided with 2D echocardiograms, one then also analyzes the ultrasound for the Doppler effect. This monitors the blood flow as it is pumped from the heart and travels through to its ventricle walls.
Some of the things that can be learned from examining the ultrasound’s Doppler effect are:
– Cardiac valve functions
– Communication between left and right sides of the heart
– Valvular regurgitation like blood leaking
– Blood pumping intervals between the left and right side of the heart
The equipment we use for ultrasounds to measure the Doppler effect is quite sophisticated, and is therefore an important part of healthcare training for people specializing in cardiovascular treatment. With the right training and experience with such techniques and equipment, there are many career doors that will open up. One can find work in hospitals, private cardiology and diagnostic centres, and even product manufacturers.
When Christian Doppler proposed his theory in the mid 19th century, who knew if he was staring at the receding circles in the lake where he had just thrown a stone. He was mainly concerned with light. But his work has helped light up the chambers of the heart for the medical community and the healthy well-being of everyone.
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