What is a transesophageal echocardiogram?
Transesophageal echocardiogram was introduced into clinical practice in North America in 1987. Since the heart and the great vessels lie immediately anterior to the esophagus, the ultrasound probe placed within the esophagus (the food pipe leading from the mouth to the stomach) allows dynamic imaging of the cardiac anatomy, function, hemodynamics, and blood flow at high resolution and clarity.
What is the test used for?
Transesophageal echocardiogram is often used in patients to look for any infection of the heart valves, clots or tumors in the cardiac cavity, evaluation of artificial heart valve function, congenital heart diseases and diseases involving the aorta. Transesophageal echocardiogram is also often used during cardiac surgery to assist surgeons in assessing the function of the heart and the heart valves before and after cardiac surgery such as coronary artery bypass graft operation, valvular replacement or valvular repair.
How is it performed?
It involved introducing a small ultrasound probe with the diameter of a small finger into the mouth and the esophagus. The probe external appearance is similar to the ones used in gastroscopy. The ultrasound transducer is actually mounted at the end of the tube that can be rotated 180 degrees electronically to obtain multiple views of the heart. This test is performed under light intravenous sedation and topical anesthetics by specially trained cardiovascular specialists. The test itself lasts 30 to 60 minutes The test itself lasts 30 to 60 minutes.
How should I prepare for the test?
You will be asked not to have anything to eat or drink for at least 6 hours prior to the procedure and often overnight fasting is required if the test is scheduled in the morning. It is important to let the physician doing the procedure whether you have any prior diseases of the mouth, esophagus, or stomach; and any difficulties in swallowing solids or liquids. It is also important to let the physician know whether you are allergic to any medication.
Is there anything to be aware of after the test?
After the test, you are advised not to eat for at least one hour due to the topical anesthetics in the oral pharynx. Due to the intravenous sedation given, you will be advised not to operate any motor vehicle, participate in any high risk physical activity, or sign any important or legal document for the rest of the day.