A transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) uses echocardiography to assess the structure and function of the heart. During the procedure, a transducer (like a microphone) sends out ultrasonic sound waves. When the transducer is placed at certain locations and angles, the ultrasonic sound waves move through the skin and other body tissues to the heart tissues, where the waves bounce or "echo" off of the heart structures. The transducer picks up the reflected waves and sends them to a computer. The computer displays the echoes as images of the heart walls and valves.
A traditional echocardiogram is done by putting the transducer on the surface of the chest. This is called a transthoracic echocardiogram. A transesophageal echocardiogram is done by inserting a probe with a transducer down the esophagus. This provides a clearer image of the heart because the sound waves do not have to pass through skin, muscle, or bone tissue. The TEE probe is much closer to the heart since the esophagus and heart are right next to each other. Being overweight or having certain lung diseases can interfere with images of the heart when the transducer is placed on the chest wall. Certain conditions of the heart are better seen with TEE, such as mitral valve disorders, blood clots or masses inside the heart, a tear of the lining of the aorta, and the structure and function of artificial heart valves.
A TEE may use one or more of several special types of echocardiography, as listed below:
Transesophageal echocardiography may be done to evaluate signs and symptoms that may suggest:
Additional reasons for which a TEE may be done include:
There may be other reasons for your doctor to recommend a TEE.
Possible risks of TEE include:
If you have known problems of the esophagus, such as esophageal varices, esophageal obstruction or stricture, or radiation therapy to the area of the esophagus, you may not be able to have a TEE. Your doctor will evaluate you carefully before having the procedure.
There may be other risks depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before the procedure.
A TEE may be done on an outpatient basis or as part of your stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your doctor’s practices.
Generally, a TEE follows this process:
You will be moved to a recovery area, where nurses will monitor your heart rate, ECG, blood pressure, and oxygen levels.
When your gag reflex has returned, your vital signs are stable, and you are more alert, the ECG electrode pads, the oxygen probe, and the IV will be removed. You may get dressed.
You may feel weak, tired, or groggy for the rest of the day of the test. You should feel normal by the day after the procedure. Your throat may be sore for a few days after the procedure due to the insertion of the TEE probe.
If the procedure was done on an outpatient basis, you may be discharged home, unless your healthcare provider determines that your condition requires further observation or hospital admission.
You will need to have someone drive you home.
You may resume your usual diet and activities unless your healthcare provider advises you differently.
Generally, there is no special type of care following a TEE. However, your healthcare provider may give you other instructions after the procedure, depending on your particular situation.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:
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