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Transesophageal Echocardiogram

What Is a Transesophageal Echocardiogram?

A transesophageal echocardiogram is an ultrasound test that uses sound waves to allow the cardiologist to better see the heart and how it works.

Using a small, flexible probe inserted into the esophagus, the cardiologist can see the structures of the heart without having the skin, rib cage, lungs and muscles of the chest interfere with the pictures of the heart.

This allows the cardiologist to get excellent images of the beating heart when the images from a regular or "trans-thoracic" echocardiogram are unclear.

It is also used during procedures or operations on the heart when the usual approach from the chest surface is not available. The special probe is passed through the patient's mouth and into the patient's esophagus (the tube through which food passes into the stomach) to a position just behind the heart. It may also be advanced all the way into the stomach for additional views of the heart.

Questions and Answers

Is there any special preparation for the test?

To prepare, the patient should not eat or drink for two to eight hours before the test, depending on the age of the patient. Specific instruction on what your child may eat or drink before the test will be given to you. 

Where is the test performed and who performs the test?

A transesophageal echocardiogram is usually performed either in the operating room or the catheterization laboratory when the patient is sedated under general anesthesia.

An anesthesiologist puts the patient to sleep by using a facemask. Once the patient is asleep, the patient receives an IV through which medications are given.

A small breathing tube is then placed into the trachea to control the patient's breathing. The transesophageal probe is placed through the mouth into the patient's esophagus and stomach where the echocardiogram pictures are taken by the cardiologist.

After the cardiologist has taken the necessary pictures (this usually takes about 20 minutes), the transesophageal probe is removed along with the breathing tube, and the patient is moved to the recovery room.

After the patient wakes up and is checked by the doctor, the patient is discharged from the hospital. The most common side effect after the test is a mild sore throat that usually clears up in a few hours.

Who interprets the test and when and how do I receive the results?

A cardiologist who specializes in echocardiography reads transesophageal echocardiograms.

The report is available to the doctor that ordered the test by the end of the day. The patient or patient's guardian may obtain the test results from the ordering doctor.

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Last Updated 04/2019

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