A transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) is an ultrasound test that uses sound waves. Using this test, the cardiologist (a doctor who takes care of the heart) can see the heart and how it works. Ultrasound does not use radiation.
Using a small, flexible tube put into the esophagus (the tube food goes through on the way to the stomach), the cardiologist can see the structures of the heart. The skin, rib cage, lungs and muscles of the chest do not get in the way of pictures of the heart.
TEE is used during procedures on the heart when getting to the heart through the chest is not an option. The ultrasound probe goes through the patient's mouth and into the patient's esophagus to a position just behind the heart. It may also be placed all the way into the stomach for more 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 several hours before the test. 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 done in the operating room or the catheterization laboratory when the patient is sedated (asleep) under general anesthesia.
An anesthesiologist (a doctor who helps keep a patient asleep) puts the patient to sleep by using a facemask. Once the patient is asleep, the patient receives an intravenous line (IV) for medicines to be given.
Sometimes patients can breathe on their own. Often a small breathing tube is placed. The probe is placed through the mouth into the patient's esophagus and stomach where the cardiologist takes the echocardiogram pictures.
After the cardiologist has taken the pictures (this usually takes about 20 minutes), the probe is removed along with the breathing tube. The patient is moved to the recovery room.
After the patient wakes up and is checked by the doctor, the patient is able to go home from the hospital. The most common side effect after the test is a mild sore throat. This usually goes away in a few hours.
Are there risks to the test?
This test involves minimal risk. There is a risk of damage to the esophagus from the ultrasound probe. This may involve irritation, abrasion, or in the worse case scenario, perforation, of the esophagus. These injuries are very rare. Every precaution is taken to avoid injury.
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 get the test results from the ordering doctor.
Contact Cincinnati Children's Heart Institute