Several drugs used to treat CNS tumors can damage the muscle of the heart, decreasing its ability to contract effectively. Many protocols require a baseline echocardiogram to measure the hearts ability to pump before any chemotherapy drugs are given. Echocardiograms are then given periodically during and after treatment to check for heart muscle damage.

An echocardiogram uses ultrasound waves to measure the amount of blood that leaves the heart each time it contracts. This percentage (blood ejected during a contraction compared to blood in the heart when it is relaxed) is called the ejection fraction.

A technician, nurse, or doctor administers the echocardiogram. The child or teen lies on a table and has conductive jelly applied to the chest. Then the technician puts a transducer (which emits the ultrasound waves) on the jelly and moves the device around on the chest to obtain different views of the heart. Pressure is applied on the transducer and can sometimes cause discomfort. The test results are displayed on videotape and photographed for later interpretation.

Meagan used to watch a video during the echocardiogram. Sometimes she would eat a sucker or a Popsicle. She found it to be boring, not painful.

An EKG (electrocardiogram) measures the electrical impulses that the heart generates during the cardiac cycle. Prior to placing the electrodes, the technician will clean the area with alcohol and will apply a cool gel under the electrodes. The test is performed at the bedside, in the cardiologists office or in the cardiac clinic or lab. Your child must lie quietly during the test and you may remain with him throughout the procedure, which generally takes less than ten minutes. Your child will feel nothing during the procedure other than the gel on the electrodes.

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