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Transesophageal Echocardiography

Pronounced: Trans-e-sohf-ah-GE-al Eck-o-car-de-O-gra-fee

Definition

Echocardiography uses sound waves to make images of the heart. In transesophageal echocardiography, the ultrasound probe is passed down the throat and in to the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that goes from the throat to the stomach. The esophagus sits very close to the heart. This method allows for clearer images of the heart than other methods.

Reasons for Procedure    TOP

This test is done to look for problems of the heart, including:

  • Enlarged heart
  • Thickening of the heart walls
  • Heart valve malfunction
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Other conditions

Abnormal Heart Walls

Heart wall disease
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Possible Complications    TOP

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bleeding or damage to the mouth, throat, or esophagus

You may be at higher risk for complications if you:

What to Expect    TOP

Prior to Procedure

  • Avoid alcohol for several days before the procedure. Alcohol may interfere with the type of sedative used.
  • Do not eat or drink for 4-8 hours before the procedure.
  • Arrange to have someone give you a ride home after the procedure.

Anesthesia

You will be given a mild sedative through an IV. You will be sleepy throughout the procedure. A topical anesthetic may also be applied to the back of the throat. This will numb the throat.

Description of the Procedure    TOP

You will be asked to lie on your side in a hospital gown. The ultrasound probe will be slid down your throat and into the esophagus until it is near the heart. The device will create active images of the heart. When the imaging is done, the probe will be taken out.

How Long Will It Take?    TOP

15-30 minutes

Will It Hurt?    TOP

There may be some mild discomfort during the procedure. Most patients sleep through the procedure and remember very little of it. Your throat may be sore for a few days.

Post-procedure Care    TOP

You will need a ride home from the procedure. Do not eat or drink until the numbness in your throat wears off. This will keep you from inhaling food or drink into the lungs. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions.

Talk to your doctor about the results of the test.

Call Your Doctor    TOP

Call your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Sore throat does not subside or worsens
  • Pain in the throat or chest develops
  • Difficulty breathing

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.

RESOURCES:

American Heart Association
http://www.heart.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
http://www.cdc.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Public Health Agency of Canada
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca

References:

Hilberath JN, Oakes DA, et al. Safety of transesophageal echocardiography. J Am Soc Echocardiogr. 2010;23(11):1115-1127.
Niedermeyer J, Daniel WG. Value of transesophageal echocardiography in diagnosis of diseases of native heart valves. Herz. 1993;18(6):329-340.
Pascoe RD, Oh JK, et al. Diagnosis of sinus venosus atrial septal defect With transesophageal echocardiography. Circulation. 1996;94:1049-1055.
Transesophageal echocardiography. American Heart Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated June 20, 2012. Accessed May 20, 2013.
Ultrasound (sonography). Radiologic Society of North America Radiology Info website Radiology Info website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated April 19, 2013. Accessed May 20, 2013.
Last reviewed March 2014 by Michael J. Fucci, DO
Last Updated: 05/02/2014