A Transesophageal Echocardiogram is a special type of echocardiogram test in which the back of your throat will be numbed and a flexible tube with an ultrasound transducer tip will be passed down your esophagus behind your heart. On the end of the scope is a device that sends out sound waves. Your physician will guide the scope down the esophagus. This method will allow your physician to get a clearer echocardiogram of your heart valves, chambers, blood vessels, and the heart muscle itself.  

Why you are having this procedure:  There are several reasons why a patient would be scheduled for a transesophageal echocardiogram including:

  1. Evaluate for infection of one of the heart valves (endocarditis) 
  2. Evaluate if a patient has a small blood clot in the heart
  3. Evaluate to determine if the patient has a small hole that allows blood to pass between the two upper or the two lower chambers of the heart.
  4. Evaluate if a patient has a split or tear between the layers of the walls of the aorta (aortic dissection)

Prep:  Do not eat or drink for 8 to 12 hours prior to the procedure. You will need someone to drive you home following the procedure as you will likely be drowsy following the procedure. You may return to your normal activities the next day.

What to expect:  Prior to beginning the procedure, you be given a sedative to relax you. The nurse will spray the back of your throat with an anesthetic solution to depress your gag reflex. The tube will then be passed down your esophagus and the procedure will be performed. 

Risks:  Complications from this procedure are extremely rare. You may have a sore throat following the procedure. A small tear in the esophagus is also a risk which may heal by itself or require stitches. You should call your cardiologist immediately should you experience coughing or vomiting blood after the procedure.