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A transesophageal echocardiogram is a specialized type of ultrasound test that passes a small transducer down the esophagus to provide a clearer image of your heart structure. It is similar to the scope used in gastroenterology for upper endoscopies.
The transesophageal echocardiogram has multiple advantages over a standard echocardiogram. It allows your physician to get a very clear look at the heart structure, including the heart valves and the wall between the top two heart chambers. The esophagus and stomach are very close to the heart, helping your physician get much more detailed pictures of the heart compared to standard echocardiograms. In addition, if used during a cardiac procedure, the transesophageal echocardiogram is out of the way compared to an echo camera, which must be placed on the chest wall.
A transesophageal echocardiogram can also be used to provide additional information during a heart surgery or certain invasive cardiac procedures. The diagnostic test is also used to visualize and assess certain heart conditions like mitral valve disease, blood clots or masses in the heart or a tear in the aorta lining. TEE can also help check on artificial valves or determine possible reasons for a stroke.
If you are having the transesophageal echocardiogram done as an outpatient procedure, you will be given a hospital gown to wear. EKG pads will be attached to your chest and an IV will be placed in your arm. Your heart rate, electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG), blood pressure and breathing rate will all be monitored throughout the procedure. Once the test is ready to begin, you will be given a sedative to help you relax, and a numbing medication will be sprayed down your throat. This will make the passage of the transesophageal ultrasound probe more comfortable. You will be awake enough to swallow if necessary.
Your physician can remotely position the probe for a variety of angles, obtaining the necessary pictures. Once the procedure is complete, the probe will be removed from your throat.
Preparing for your procedure
Do not eat or drink anything for at least four hours prior to your transesophageal echocardiogram test. Check with your physician to determine if any of your medications should be avoided for the days leading up to your scheduled test. Make sure to bring all of your medications, as well as any herbal or dietary supplements and over-the-counter medications, to the test with you.
On the day of the test, do not wear any jewelry or bring valuables with you. It is important to bring an adult to drive you home after the test is complete, because you will not be allowed to drive.
During your procedure
You should feel comfortable and relaxed during the procedure due to the sedative. The test usually takes about two hours to perform.
After your procedure
Your physician will give you instruction after the procedure regarding when you can eat and drink again. You will most likely be groggy for a few hours after the test, so make sure to rest as much as possible. Your physician will be in touch with you to discuss the test results.
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