What is Transesophageal Echocardiography?

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  • Written By: Nat Robinson
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 15 July 2019
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Transesophageal echocardiography uses high-frequency sound waves to create a 3-D picture of the heart. Sometimes referred to as a tee procedure, the test can be used to show how well the heart is functioning. It is different from a traditional heart echocardiogram, because it uses a a flexible endoscope with an ultrasound transducer attached to it. The endoscope is placed down the esophagus to capture precise images of the heart. In most cases, transesophageal echocardiography is done on an outpatient basis.

Commonly, when a previous heart scan fails to produce an adequate amount of information, transesophageal echocardiography may be used instead. This type of diagnostic test can provide a very accurate analysis of the heart. It can be used to diagnose cardiac diseases and to show disease progression in a pre-existing condition. The advanced heart scan can also analyze the heart's ability to pump blood, the function of heart muscle and the healthiness of blood vessels and arteries. For this reason, the test is often used to diagnose blood clots in the heart.


Prior to undergoing a transesophageal echocardiography, a patient may be asked to fast from foods and drinks for a certain number of hours. Prescription medications may be taken as usual or may need to be put off until after the test is over. Normally, the doctor will inform the patient on how to alter medications if deemed necessary. On the day of the test, the patient usually reports to a hospital or outpatient center for the procedure. A sedative is generally given to relax the patient and many may sleep during the test.

During the test, electrodes will typically be put on the chest. This is done to monitor the activity in the heart as the test proceeds. Pulse levels and blood pressure are generally closely monitored as well. As the test begins, the endoscope will be placed in the mouth, where it will travel down into the esophagus. When the endoscope reaches the desired location, numerous pictures will be taken of the heart from multiple angles.

Following a transesophageal echocardiography study, the patient is usually taken to a recovery area until the sedative wears off. The vital signs will continue to be monitored during this time. In most cases, a sore throat is one of the most common complaints following the test. The doctor generally advises the patient on the amount of time to wait before resuming regular activities. Often, test results may be available immediately or within a few days following the procedure.



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