A transoesophageal echocardiogram is a test that uses ultrasound to produce moving, real-time images of your heart. It can show the structure of your heart and how well it’s working.
A consultant can also use it as a guide if you’re having an operation on your heart.
In a transoesophageal echocardiogram, your doctor or sonographer will pass an ultrasound probe into your oesophagus. This is the pipe that goes from your mouth to your stomach.
Preparing for transoesophageal echocardiogram
A transoesophageal echocardiogram is usually done as a day-case procedure in hospital. This means you have the test and go home the same day.
Your doctor or sonographer will explain how to prepare for your procedure.
You might be asked not to eat or drink anything for about six hours before you have the procedure. If you’re taking any medicines, you’ll probably be fine to do so on the morning of your appointment with a sip of water. But check with your doctor. They should have asked you before the test if you’re taking any medicines that help to prevent your blood clotting, such as warfarin.
You’ll usually stay awake during the procedure although your doctor may give you a sedative. This relieves anxiety and will help you to relax.
What are the alternatives to transoesophageal echocardiogram
Alternatives to having a transoesophageal echocardiogram include the following.
- Echocardiogram (transthoracic echocardiogram – TTE). This involves a doctor or sonographer moving an ultrasound sensor over your chest to get pictures of your heart. You might be able to have this procedure if you have difficulty swallowing the sensor for a transoesophageal echocardiogram. But a standard echocardiogram produces less detailed images than a transoesophageal echocardiogram.
- Cardiac MRI scan. MRI uses powerful magnets, radio waves and computers to produce detailed images of the inside of your heart.
- Cardiac CT scan. This uses X-rays to create a three-dimensional image of your heart.
What happens during transoesophageal echocardiogram
A transoesophageal echocardiogram usually takes about 20 minutes.
You’ll need to undress to your waist and put on a hospital gown that opens at the front. You’ll also need to remove dentures or dental plates if you have them.
Sedatives are usually given through a fine tube (cannula) into a vein in your arm or the back of your hand. Your doctor or sonographer will monitor your heart rhythm throughout the procedure.
You’ll need to lie on your left-hand side on the bed. Your doctor or sonographer will spray a local anaesthetic into the back of your throat to numb it, and place the probe in your mouth. They’ll then ask you to swallow so they can pass the probe into your oesophagus. The test isn’t painful but it may feel uncomfortable when your doctor or sonographer passes the probe into your oesophagus. You’ll still be able to breathe normally while it’s in your throat.
The probe will send out sound waves and pick up the returning echoes, which are converted into pictures of the inside of your heart. These are displayed on a monitor and are constantly updated so the scan can show movement.